Washington nurses urge lawmakers to pass safe staffing bill

RICHLAND, Wash. — “The pandemic has exacerbated the problem, it did not create it,” said David Keepnews, the Executive Director of the Washington State Nurses Association.

The problem?

Tired, overworked and burnt out nurses across Washington.

“Nurses are scared, we’re scared for our patients,” Nikki May, an ICU nurse from the Tri-Cities said.

May said when you force nurses to work to their breaking point, mistakes are inevitable and the person on the end of that mistake, is the patient.

“If I make the wrong decision, it could kill somebody,” she said.

Nikki, who’s a part of the WA Safe and Healthy Coalition, said a shortage of registered nurses isn’t the problem.

“We have a shortage of willing nurses,” she said.

However, the WSHA said they believe it will drive up healthcare costs and end up hurting patients.

WA Safe and Healthy said that’s not the case.

She added, no one wants to work constant overtime shifts, have a high patient to nurse ratio or miss out on a meal break.

“We have too many patients and not enough nurses and that’s what you have to do to get through because you can’t have a patient not have a nurse at so it’s better to have a nurse overworked than
to not have a nurse at all,” she said.

This is why Nikki and the nurses a part of WA Safe and Healthy and urging lawmakers to pass HB 1868, which sets standards for patient to worker ratios, among other requirements that they hope would improve the work environment.

“It’s actual concern for patients, is the main reason why we really need this passed now, we needed it ten years ago, we desperately need it now,” Nikki said.

“Better staffing is linked to better outcomes and inadequate staffing leads to worse and sometimes tragic outcomes,” Keepnews added

While it may not be an overnight fix, Nikki believes the concept is simple.

“If they change how much is on our plates, I think a lot of people would come back,” she said.

You can learn more about the coalition here.