Medical-Surgical Nurses Advocate for Vital Workplace Safety, Health Equity, and Nursing Workforce Center Legislation
During AMSN’s first-ever Virtual Hill Day on July 19, 2023, 12 AMSN Legislative Committee members and eight AMSN Board of Directors members took part in 23 Senate meetings and 12 House meetings, with 13 states and 12 congressional districts represented. These AMSN board and committee members met with Capitol Hill staffers to discuss and garner support for three important pieces of legislation that aim to improve workplace safety for nurses, promote health equity, and bolster the nursing workforce. At these meetings, they highlighted the benefits of the bills for medical-surgical nurses, sharing the challenges they have faced on the job and how the legislation would make a difference in their careers and for the profession overall.
The Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act (H.R. 2663 and S. 1176) would direct the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue an interim occupational safety and health standard requiring certain employers to take steps to safeguard health care workers and other personnel from workplace violence. With nurses and other health care workers experiencing some of the highest workplace violence rates, AMSN supports the implementation of additional federal guardrails to address the issue.
Meanwhile, the John Lewis Equality in Medicare and Medicaid Treatment Act (H.R. 3069 and S. 1296) would direct the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation to consult with other agencies on health disparities and develop new payment models that account for social determinants of health (SDOH) and reduce costs while improving care access. AMSN supports the legislation as part of its strategic mission, which includes addressing SDOH in policy to ensure patients have access to high-quality, affordable health care.
Finally, the National Nursing Workforce Center Act (H.R. 2144 and S. 1150), would fund a two-year pilot grant program through the Health Resources and Services Administration to support state-based nursing workforce centers (NWCs) to address critical gaps in the nursing workforce and health care overall through better data collection and standardization, with the goal of stabilizing and strengthening the nursing workforce. AMSN considers NWCs to be indispensable partners in addressing the ongoing nurse staffing crisis and supports this legislation to provide additional funding and resources to aid their efforts in collecting data, publishing reports on nursing supply/demand and education, and exchanging best practices.
In meetings with congressional staffers during the one-day event, AMSN Legislative Committee Coordinator Monica van der Zee, BSN, RN, CMSRN, a nurse at The University of Kansas Health System, stresses that workplace safety is a big issue for all nurses and urged support for the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act. “The University of Kansas Health System is already taking steps to safeguard nurses, but I’d like to see all nurses have those kinds of protections,” she says. “We all want to be safe at work.”
Regarding the John Lewis Equality in Medicare and Medicaid Treatment Act, van der Zee says, “This one is especially important, because I have a lot of patients who can’t get the care they need.” She says members are particularly concerned about orthopedic patients who would have good outcomes but need more work to get there. “There are incentives to cherry pick patients who will recover the quickest and require the least care after the procedure,” van der Zee explains. “This legislation would go a long way toward ensuring all our patients are able to get the care they need.”
She also emphasizes the importance of the National Nursing Workforce Center Act in addressing the critical need for more nurses and more resources to facilitate training. “Part of the reason we’re in a nursing shortage is that our older nurses are retiring, and we need newer nurses to replace them,” van der Zee says. “Providing additional funding to these nursing workforce centers would help address bottlenecks in training and help get more nurses in the pipeline and on the floor.”
AMSN is urging members of Congress to co-sponsor these bills. To keep up with AMSN’s legislative and advocacy initiatives and to find out how you can take action, visit the advocacy section on the AMSN website.