RNs commemorate Nurses Week in Capitol Hill lobbying blitz

Submitted by ADonahue on
Screenshot of Zoom meeting with 22 attendees

Staff report

National Nurse Magazine - July | August | September 2023 Issue

Hundreds of National Nurses United RNs from across the country paid online lobbying visits in Washington, D.C. starting May 3 with their federal members of Congress and senators, urging their legislators to confront the staffing crisis in hospitals across the country. Nurses urged their legislators to pass legislation that would increase the number of RNs at the hospital bedside and retain those who are already employed to improve patient care.

Challenging the hospital industry’s false narrative of a “nursing shortage,” the nurses urged Congress instead to deal with the real crisis of unsafe staffing levels in their facilities. “The hospital corporations talk about a ‘nursing shortage,’ which does not exist, to avoid any responsibility for driving nurses away from the bedside,” said Deborah Burger, RN, president of NNU. “There was a hospital industry-created staffing crisis in U.S. hospitals that existed before the Covid-19 pandemic but the hospital corporations’ behavior during the pandemic greatly exacerbated the crisis.”

According to data from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are over one million nurses with active RN licenses who are not working as nurses in the United States. Even during the years of the pandemic, the number of RN licenses has increased, and the number of nursing school graduates is the highest it has been in a decade. Data from 2019 to 2022 also shows that the entirety of growth in RN employment during that period has occurred outside of hospitals and instead in other settings like outpatient clinics and doctors’ offices.

“The hospital industry likes to talk about improving the so-called ‘nursing pipeline,’ but nurses know that’s not the real problem confronting our hospitals. The real problem is the horrible working conditions in these hospitals that is driving nurses away,” said Burger. “You’re not going to solve the problem with a better pipeline if you don’t fix the leaky bucket.”

Nurses lobbied in support of five priority bills during National Nurses Week. They are:

  • The Nurse Staffing Standards for Hospital Patient Safety and Quality Care Act (S. 1113/H.R. 2530), introduced by Sen. Sherrod Brown and Rep. Jan Schakowsky
  • The Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act (S. 1176/H.R. 2663), introduced by Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Rep. Joe Courtney
  • The Richard L. Trumka Protecting the Right to Organize Act (S. 567/H.R. 20), introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Bobby Scott
  • The Veterans Administration Employee Fairness Act, to be introduced soon by Sen. Sherrod Brown and Rep. Mark Takano
  • The Medicare for All Act (S. 1655/H.R. 3421) by Sen. Bernie Sanders and Reps. Pramila Jayapal and Debbie Dingell.