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Bill to retain nurses at the bedside clears another hurdle

A new report from the Minnesota Nurses Association says 2,400 nurses in the state left bedside positions over the last year.

ST PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota nurses testified Monday night before the Minnesota Senate in support of the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act in the Senate Labor Committee. 

It passed out of that committee and was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee next. This follows passage last week by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. 

The Minnesota Nursing Association (MNA) says the bill is designed to solve the crisis of short staffing, retention and patient care. 

The bill would establish committees of direct care workers and management at hospitals to work together to create staffing plans on a hospital-by-hospitals, unit-by-unit basis, including a maximum limit on the number of patients that nay one nurse should safely care for. 

"If nurses can participate in addressing in their local community, on their local unit, what that number is, that will speak volumes because right now it's just whatever we have, that's what you're stuck with," said MNA staffing specialist Carrie Mortrude. 

Mortrude quit nursing back in 2005 due to short staffing. She says the bill focuses on retaining experienced nurses, many of whom are burnt out. A new report finds that 2,400 of them already left bedside jobs in Minnesota just last year.

"If we fix it, they'll see there's some light at the end of the tunnel," said Mortrude.

Except, the Minnesota Hospital Association (MHA) says in order to comply with the bill hospital units may have to close. Right now, the MHA says there are more 5,000 open RN positions. 

"And if the math equation of patients and nurses doesn't add up to a number determined by an arbitrator, Minnesotans will be denied access to timely care," said Methodist Hospital Nursing Director Adam Karlen. 

In a letter submitted to legislators at Monday's hearing, 70 hospital nurse leaders from across the state expressed their opposition, in part, to resolve disputes. "If these anonymous complaints are not resolved within 30 days, the matter would go to arbitration. This arbitration process would slow down decision making, worsen culture and add unnecessary expense and bureaucracy."

Karlen also spoke out about a part of the bill that would provide protections for nurses who speak out and may fear retaliation. 

"Retaliation is not part of our retention equation," said Karlen. "The notion of retaliation in this bill is completely out of touch with the professional practice and organizational cultures across Minnesota hospitals."

The groups do agree on some parts of the bill, including funding mental health services for care teams and expanding loan forgiveness programs for nurses.


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