House Approves Safe Staffing Standards for Hospitals

OLYMPIA – Legislation to create safe staffing standards for hospitals passed the Washington House of Representatives on a 55-43 vote today. HB 1868, sponsored by Rep. Marcus Riccelli (D-Spokane), would make Washington the second state to mandate safe staffing standards for hospitals.

“Nurses and healthcare workers have moved mountains over the last two years, but they are burning out,” said Riccelli. “With all the pressures of the pandemic, hospitals should not be adding stress to nurses and healthcare workers by not adequately staffing our hospitals. Hospital executives have been able to find millions of dollars to pay themselves bonuses during this pandemic, and now it is time to ensure that healthcare workers and patients are protected from unmanageable patient loads.”

December poll found that 84 percent of healthcare workers said they were burned out and 49 percent said they were likely to quit healthcare. When asked the reasons for considering leaving the profession, 71 percent cited short staffing as a major issue. Aside from depleting the healthcare workforce, low staffing levels lead to unsafe patient conditions. According to the Lancet, a person’s chances of dying go up by 7% for every additional patient that their nurse cares for.

“Washington should be a place where healthcare workers can have a long and fulfilling career, but we are failing them,” said Rep. Mike Sells (D-Everett), chair of the House Labor and Workforce Standards Committee. “This bill will require hospitals to invest in their workforce, preventing burnout and protecting patients from dangerous and unmanageable patient loads.”

The bill also includes provisions to enforce existing break and overtime laws to ensure nurses are getting their legally required meal and rest breaks. It now heads to the Senate for consideration.