Nurses commemorate nurses week in lobbying blitz on Capitol Hill
Hundreds of bedside nurses from across the country began online lobbying visits in Washington, D.C. today with their federal members of Congress and senators, urging their legislators to confront the staffing crisis in hospitals across the country. The nurses, members of National Nurses United (NNU), the nation’s largest union and professional association of registered 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.”
“Hospital managers treated RNs and other hospital staff as expendable during the pandemic, not caring if we lived or died, refusing to provide lifesaving personal protective equipment until they were forced to do so, and now they wonder why nurses have fled the bedside,” she continued. “It’s the government’s job to impose mandatory staffing standards on the hospital industry to ensure optimal patient care. When that occurs, nurses who are currently working at hospital bedsides will stay in their jobs and many of those who left will come back to the bedside.”
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 understand that if you don’t have the correct diagnosis of what ails the patient, the care plan won’t work,” Burger continued. “It is crucial that our legislators listen to the voices of bedside nurses who are the backbone of our health care system.”
Nurses are lobbying 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/HR 2530), introduced by Sen. Sherrod Brown and Rep. Jan Schakowsky;
- The Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act (S 1176/HR 2663), introduced by Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Rep. Joe Courtney;
- The Richard L. Trumka Protecting the Right to Organize Act (S 567/HR 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; and
- The Medicare for All Act, to be introduced soon by Sen. Bernie Sanders and Reps. Pramila Jayapal and Debbie Dingell.
Every year, from May 6-12, Nurses Week is celebrated, marking the birthday of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.
National Nurses United is the largest and fastest-growing union and professional association of registered nurses in the United States with nearly 225,000 members nationwide.