LANSING, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – As Michigan faces a potential declining population of nurses, some legislators have taken a step towards reversing this trend. 

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At the end of April, legislation called the Safe Patient Care Act, was reintroduced after nearly two years which would afford additional protections and benefits for nurses. 

“Healthcare is in crisis because of years of hospital understaffing. Every year, the situation gets worse. We have reached the point now where almost 40% of current nurses say that they are planning to leave within the next year,” said Jamie Brown, a critical care nurse and President of the Michigan Nurses Association. “Hospital executives have failed to fix the problem for over a decade. The only way to keep patients safe is through meaningful action that will hold corporate executives accountable. We need patients to be put before profits.”

Survey results released earlier this month shows that of the more than 9,000 Michigan nurses polled, many shared their thoughts about workplace conditions and concerns. 

  • When mandatory overtime is frequently used, nurses are 72% more likely to have left the profession within the past two years.
  • Nearly 40% of Michigan nurses say they plan to leave their job within the next year.
  • 83% of currently practicing nurses say adequate staffing is their main concern.
  • 84% of currently practicing nurses report emotional exhaustion.

“As a country, we have decided that for everyone’s safety there must be limits on the number of hours that pilots and truck drivers can be made to work in one day,” Senator Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) said in a statement. “When patients’ lives are on the line, it’s just common sense that similar limitations be in place for RNs. I deeply value and respect the work that nurses do. It’s time that we listen to them and pass this law.”

In a separate poll commissioned by the Michigan Nurses Association found similar results. 

  • Over nine in ten RNs say requiring nurses to care for too many patients at once is affecting the quality of patient care.
  • The number of nurses who say they know of a patient death due to nurses being assigned too many patients nearly doubled from 22% in 2016 to 42% this year.
  • Requiring set nurse-to-patient ratios would make a difference in retaining and returning qualified nurses to the field. Three-quarters of nurses currently working in direct patient care say they would be more likely to stay if such legislation passes, while nearly four in ten who have left say they would be more likely to come back. 

As a result, the legislation would particularly address limiting nurse-patient ratios, requiring hospitals to disclose nurse to patient ratios, and reduce forced overtime for employees. 

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Some opponents of the legislation include President Kim Meeker of the Michigan Organization for Nursing Leadership, who said the legislation does nothing to address staffing shortages that have plagued hospitals and likely will only worsen current problems according to WNEM. 

“Ultimately it would mean we have as many patients to take care of with fewer nursing resources which then means decrease in access,” Meeker said. “I’m talking about the closing of beds in hospitals. I’m potentially talking about hospitals closing.”

Similar legislation was introduced in 2017 and then again in 2021, but the package was never voted on during a floor vote.