Nursing Shortages Prompting Calls for Legislation

U.S. hospitals have faced nurse shortages periodically over years. The demand was high even before the pandemic, but due to wave after wave of COVID-19, registered nurses (RNs) and their patients are facing a crisis of unsafe staffing levels. The arrival of the omicron variant may put more people in hospitals and place more strain on staff.


National Nurses United, the largest union of registered nurses in the US., is urging congress to pass legislation to address issues related to the staffing crisis. The union contends that hospitals have endangered the safety and health of nurses by putting them at a higher risk of exposure to COVID-19, mental distress, injuries, and workplace violence. By doing so, they state that nurses are fleeing these working conditions as a result. They also state that passing legislation could “end the industry-created nurse staffing crisis” by setting mandated staffing levels in hospitals, preventing workplace violence, and other measures to improve working conditions for nurses.


National Nurses United is calling on Congress to:


  • Pass the Nurse Staffing Standards for Hospital Patient Safety and Quality Care Act of 2021 (H.R. 3165)
  • Pass the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act (H.R. 1195)
  • Pass the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act (S. 420, H.R. 842 in the 117th Congress)
  •  Pass the VA Employee Fairness Act (S. 771, H.R. 1948 in the 117th Congress)
  • Increase funding for OSHA enforcement programs and the hiring of inspectors for the health care sector.
  • Pass legislation mandating paid sick, family and precautionary leave for nurses and other workers.
  • Pass legislation requiring hospitals and government to maintain and report on personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical supply stockpiles
  • Pass legislation expanding Defense Production Act of 1950 (DPA) powers over PPE and medical supply chains during public health emergencies
  • Pass legislation prohibiting the reuse and extended use of single-use PPE Pandemic Effects Mitigation Measures
  • Pass legislation providing free crisis counseling and mental health services to nurses


Rep. Jan Schakowsky, sponsor of H.R. 3165, the Nurse Staffing Standards for Hospital Patient Safety and Quality Care Act said, “There is no shortage of registered nurses. There is a shortage of good, permanent nursing jobs where registered nurses are fully valued for their work. We celebrate nurses. We call them heroes. If we truly value their work and their sacrifices, we must give them the support that they are asking for.”



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