Nurses fight for state safe staffing law

Submitted by ADonahue on
Group of nurses sitting at table with microphone for legislative hearing

Staff report

National Nurse magazine - Oct | Nov | Dec 2023 Issue

Registered nurses with National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United (NNOC/NNU) joined labor allies on Oct. 3 at a legislative hearing to rebuke industry efforts to reduce staffing in health care systems and nursing homes.

This hearing addressed the origins of and practical solutions to the short-staffing and workplace violence crises that put patients at risk and push nurses to strike across Illinois medical facilities. Nurses will discuss how the proposed Illinois Safe Patients Limit Act provides a critical pathway to addressing these crises that negatively impact our patients and our communities.

Under current law, there is no limit to how many patients a nurse can be responsible for at one time in the state of Illinois. Nurses and health care workers say that must change.

“Our hospitals are refusing to hire the appropriate number of nurses required to safely care for our patients,” Brenda Langford, RN at Cook County Hospital in Chicago and a CNA/NNOC board member. “It’s life threatening to patients and dangerous for nurses, who experience increased workplace violence and injury while understaffed. That’s why nurses across Illinois health care facilities and nursing homes are striking — we can’t allow our patients’ health to be put at risk.”

“The very future of the nursing profession is on the line,” Langford continued. “Qualified, licensed nurses leave their jobs at the bedside because their licenses and their patients are being put at risk by these staffing practices. We need the Safe Patient Limits Act to keep more nurses at the bedside. The law mandating nurse-to-patient ratios has worked in California for years, and it will work here in Illinois. Our patients deserve nothing less.”

Hospitals are perpetuating the harmful myth of a “nursing shortage” to hide their refusal to staff units appropriately. Data clearly shows there is no true nursing shortage. In 2022, nationwide, there were more than one million registered nurses with active licenses who were not employed as RNs. In Illinois, as of May 2023, there were more than 228,000 actively licensed RNs, while BLS data from May 2022, indicates slightly fewer than 140,000 nurses are actively employed in the state. That indicates there are more than 88,000 RNs with active licenses who are not employed as nurses in Illinois. That’s not a shortage of nurses; it’s a staffing crisis.

NNOC/NNU represents more than 6,000 registered nurses across Illinois.