Pa. nurses hoping ratio mandate would provide much-needed healing to a hurting system

Pennsylvania Politics

Editor’s Note: The spelling of Maria Collet’s name was corrected.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — When it comes to nurses, Pennsylvania’s healthcare system is very ill, and advocates say if something isn’t done soon, patients may not make it.

Nurses in red shirts issued a red alert: “At the hospital, your life is in danger,” Shannan Giambrone, an RN at Mercy Suburban Hospital, said.

To reduce the danger, House Bill 106 would mandate nurse-to-patient ratios. “Unsafe staffing is like drunk driving — sure sometimes we get home safe, but every time we’re at risk, and the time for that risk is over,” Giambrone said.

Democratic Senator and nurse Maria Collet sponsored the bill and said it would make the system healthier. “Setting those limits leads to better patient outcomes. Short staffing is the biggest drive of nurse burnout and turnover,” Collet said.

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Republican State Rep. Kacey Tomlinson sponsored the House version. Her sister is a nurse. “I’ve seen firsthand the look on my sister’s face of frustration and burnout after another overwhelming shift in the ER,” Tomlinson said.

“Imposing a mandated-by-law ratio is not a good idea,” Warren Kampf with the Hospital Association of Pennsylvania said. He also said hospitals are paying nurses retention bonuses and signing bonuses, and they still can’t find enough workers.

“A mandated ratio by law is not going to create nurses out of thin air,” Kampf said.

The state is trying to address the shortage. On Tuesday, the state announced that $6.5 million of CARES Act funding will go toward paying off nurses’ student loans and creating apprenticeships.

“We need to start now to recruit, to train, and to retain staff in the nursing profession,” Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam said.

Nearly everyone appreciates the work of nurses, especially during the pandemic. But what these nurses need is for more people to become nurses.

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