After years of demanding action from the Legislature, nurses are primed to finally gain a say in hospital staffing levels.
A deal was announced Saturday morning on the “Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act,” a plan to address the working conditions of direct care nurses in hospitals and the related staffing shortages seen statewide.
“[We have a] proposal that I hope stands the test, that is durable, and achieves the goal that is, at least for me, stated — that we are retaining our nurses in the care of patients in our hospitals and that the people who are getting that care in our hospitals are getting the very best care that we can deliver together,” said Sen. Erin Murphy (DFL-St. Paul).
She and Rep. Sandra Feist (DFL-New Brighton) chair the conference committee dedicated to the proposal.
The conferees used HF1522/SF1384* as a vehicle bill to carry the measure, having pulled the language out of the health finance bill. After nearly an hour of discussion and the adoption of several technical oral amendments, the committee approved a delete-everything amendment, as amended.
Once drafted, the conference committee report will be returned to the two chambers for final approval.
Appropriations during the 2024-25 biennium related to nurse staffing issues (but traveling in the health finance bill) would total $18.7 million, headlined by $10.7 million for the health professional education loan forgiveness program, designed to increase the size of the nursing workforce.
The proposal garnered significant controversy throughout the legislative session, with hospital administrators and nurses unions both objecting to the initial compromise language introduced earlier in the week.
The only stakeholder that was pleased, Mayo Clinic, still has much to smile about — the hospital system got its wish and is due to be exempt from the new labor standards approved by conferees.
All other hospitals would have to implement nurse staffing committees, which would make “evidence-based written core staffing plans to guide the creation of daily staffing schedules for each inpatient care unit of the hospital.”
Supporters believe these staffing plans will help alleviate the unsustainable work conditions experienced by direct care nurses, leading many workers to leave the profession in recent years.
Crucially, the final agreement specifies direct health care workers would comprise 50% of committee membership, with approximately 35% having to be registered nurses.
Other issues sorted out during negotiations included modifying the process for when a failure to approve a hospital core staffing plan would be sent to mediation and when a failed mediation would then be escalated to arbitration.