Lawmakers in Washington state are in the process of debating two new bills that would change the healthcare industry. Nursing unions and their allies recently introduced Senate Bill 5236, which would implement safe nurse-patient ratios at hospitals around the state, but the bill doesn’t specify what those ratios should be. Instead, it asks the Department of Labor and Rules to set standards.
If passed, all hospitals would be required to implement the new standards by June of 2027. It would also reduce the mandatory pre-scheduled on-call cap from 24 hours per week to 60 hours per month.
Several healthcare providers came to the state capitol earlier this week to voice their support for the bill. Kelli Johnson, a nurse at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, WA, talked about how patients in need of life-saving care are having to wait in the lobby for hours. “The shortage is not nurses,” she told the committee debating the bill. “The shortage is safe work environments.”
Nurses are so courageous!!! Kudos to this Nurse who showed up yesteday and testified in support of the Nurse Ratio Bill in Washington!!!! #nursegang #washington #nurselife #nursepatientratio #nursesoftiktok #fypシ #standup #courage #shero
The Washington State Hospital Association has come out against the bill, arguing that it would result in fewer patients being able to access care.
But over 2,055 healthcare workers, patients, and patient advocacy organizations from around the state have signed onto the bill, including the Washington State Nurses Association. The bill currently has twice the number of proponents than it does detractors.
Nonie Kingma, a psychiatric nurse at Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane, shared her concerns with the committee as well. “I have served on the staffing committee at our hospital for many years and have chaired that committee for the last year and a half,” she said.
“I am here to tell you it is infuriating to sit in committee month after month, year after year and see how our staffing guidelines are breached every single day on many units a day leaving nurses in untenable, dangerous and heartbreaking situations.”
Melissa Swetland, an emergency department nurse at St. Anne Hospital in Burien, added: “Implementing safe staffing standards in every Washington hospital is the one thing that will make patient care safe again and keep healthcare workers like me at the bedside.”
“Patient care is devastated, and that’s devastating for those of us at the bedside,” Swetland stated. “Where I work, folks’ fingers are on the send button to resign. They are ready to move to outpatient care, retire — frankly, anything else. Safe staffing standards will make the difference for us.”