Efforts to address the issues impacting the nursing workforce are beginning to come to a head as the House Health Policy Committee starts collecting testimony on the Safe Patient Care Act, which includes the establishment of statewide nurse-patient ratios. The legislation comes in the wake of labor contract negotiations and the signing of an agreement for University of Michigan nurses, which included the enforcement of contractual staffing levels in University of Michigan Health facilities. The Michigan Health Council (MHC) established a short form online poll to capture the perspective of nurses on this issue.
The pivotal question in the opinion poll indicates that nurse support for higher wages and reducing nurse-to-patient ratios, as the best method for employers to support them, is nearly tied. When factoring in the margin of error, it is unclear whether respondents preferred one support method over the other.
Support and opposition to the Safe Patient Care Act bill package, including mandatory nurse-patient ratios, was on full display November 9th as the Michigan Nurses Association offered testimony in support of the bill package with the American Nurse Association-Michigan (ANA-MI) and the Michigan Hospital and Health Association (MHA) testifying in opposition. The space between these two positions concerns whether the implementation of a broad nurse-to-patient ratio will exacerbate the current nurse shortage, while proponents of nurse-to-patient ratios suggest implementation could attract non-practicing nurses back to the bedside. Michigan currently has 175,000 licensed nurses while only 101,000 are currently practicing. MHA contends that they cannot fill the current 8,500 open nursing positions in the state, and the addition of nurse-patient ratios would further restrict care
With the Legislature adjourning for the year on November 14th, progress on the Safe Patient Care Act bills will be delayed until the new legislative session in 2024. While the bills currently sit in the House Health Policy Committee, the fate of the package is unclear, with neither party holding a majority after two Democratic Representatives resigned, having won their mayoral bids in their respective hometowns. The future of this package won’t be better understood until a special election takes place in 2024.
MHC Insight’s Take
The opinion poll findings suggest that nurse pay is equally as important to nurses as reducing nurse-to-patient ratios. Further, the open-ended responses suggest this issue is nuanced and requires continued investigation as employers and employees balance patient care with financial sustainability.
MHC plans to offer additional opinion polls to various licensed health professionals in Michigan. If you have questions or issues you would like us to ask, click here to contact us.