(WHTM) — It is National Nurses Week, which means it is time to thank them for all that they do, but advocates say it is more than that and are using this time to push for better working conditions amid the staffing shortage.

Many nurses are retiring and many more are leaving for other jobs. But what is replacing them? That’s where the Pennsylvania Nurses Middle College Charter School comes into play. It’s currently under development but would be open to students in Dauphin County.

“Starting students in ninth grade to begin the process of going into the profession of nursing, by doing that with a unique curriculum, that is specifically geared toward nursing,” said CEO and Founder of the charter school Betsy Snook.

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Snook worries the mass exodus will discourage new nurses. “We have to address it right now in order to be prepared in the future,” she said.

In January, Pennsylvania passed a bill to distribute $100 million to acute care hospitals on a per-bed basis and even more to hospitals in rural and poorer areas. But is money the answer?

Wayne Reich, CEO of the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association, says working conditions need to get better.

“With COVID, and even before COVID, the conditions at the bedside have gotten worse. The number of nurses practicing at the bedside has decreased because of burnout, stresses, decreased staffing,” Reich explained.

PSNA echoes its call for lawmakers to pass the Patient Safety Act. It would limit the number of patients a nurse can be assigned depending on the level of care required.

The Hospital and Health System Association of Pennsylvania is against it saying hospitals are full and there are too many open positions to make that work and, instead, offer the right incentives and resources.

“Something with salary or removing barriers for a clinical license to make sure if someone wants to come in from out of state, it’s an easy process and there’s no delays to something like that,” said Robert Shipp, vice president for Population Health and Clinical Affairs.

The Patient Safety Act is awaiting a vote in the House Health Committee. Sponsor, Rep. Tom Mehaffie, sent a letter to House Democratic leader Joanna McClinton asking for a floor vote.