It's controversial. It's divisive among health care workers. And, it's advancing through the Minnesota State Legislature.

Known mechanically as "HF1700", the so-called "Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act" was advanced through the Minnesota Health Finance and Policy Committee on March 14. One day earlier, a similar "companion bill":  SF1561, was also advanced.

As a representative body, Minnesota's nurses are largely for the passage of the bill, which would establish review committees at every hospital in the state, focused on workload and staffing needs. The legislation would help to ensure that "direct care workers and nurses can weigh in on staffing workloads on a hospital-by-hospital basis".

While staffing and workload have always been a concern for nurses and the medical field, they came into sharp focus during the recent COVID-19 Pandemic. They also took center stage during the most-recent contract negotiations between hospitals around the state and the Minnesota Nurses Association. Those negotiations broke down last fall, leading to "the largest private-sector nurse strike in U.S. history", with 15,000 nurses involved.

According to new sources and the bill as introduced, the legislation would work this way:

"It would require hospitals to establish committees composed of direct care workers and management...[T]he staffing committee would meet quarterly to create and review guide daily staffing decisions."

The reviews by the committee would be used to create "core staffing plan[s with]...projected staffing levels.....set[ting] a maximum number of patients that nurses could safely care for".

Many close to the situation say that it would help alleviate the current hiring and retention problem - something that's not necessarily just a Minnesota-problem. During the pandemic, many nurses and health care workers grew weary and chose to leave the field. And depending on who you talk to, it's widely assumed that the rise of so-called "Travel Nursing" didn't help the situation.

While many on the nursing side of the legislation favor its implementation, administrators of some hospital systems aren't so sure.  An article in the Mankato Free Press details that many hospitals have "indicated....[that] they would likely have to close units if the requirement went through. Rural hospitals in particular.....would be negatively impacted".

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