Congress turns focus to nursing home staffing with new bill

Nursing Home Staff

Registered Nurse Nursing Home Staffing

A bill recently introduced to Congress by Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky is one that is being celebrated by residents of nursing homes and their families. The representative introduced Put a Registered Nurse in the Nursing Home Act (H.R. 952) in February, which would mandate that skilled nursing homes that receive federal reimbursements from Medicare or Medicaid to staff a direct-care registered nurse at all times – 24 hours per day, seven days per week. At this time, the requirement is to staff one direct-care registered nurse for at least eight hours during a 24-hour period, regardless of the size of the home.

So far, 11 representatives from eight states have cosponsored the bill. Although the list is growing, with three more sponsors joining the list in June, so far only congressmen and congresswomen from the Democratic Party have back this effort. Not surprisingly, national and local nursing associations and consumer advocates are championing this bill, as well. In her statement half a year before the bill was formerly introduced to Congress, Rep. Schakowsky wrote in a press release:

“Putting a loved one in a nursing facility is always a difficult decision. We must ensure that seniors and the disabled in nursing homes are not harmed because there is no RN on site to take care of their needs. Every American deserves the right to age with dignity and respect, and I urge my colleagues to support the Put a Registered Nurse in the Nursing Home Act in order to guarantee proper care for our loved ones who reside in nursing homes nationwide.”

This news excites many people because, at times, there can still be a stigma regarding the level of care and quality of life in a nursing home. It is crucial to consider factors such as staffing and access to medical professionals in an emergency when choosing a skilled nursing home to entrust your wellbeing or that of a loved one. The Put a Registered Nurse in the Nursing Home Act strives to alleviate the worry for families and ensure that this level of care is provided to everyone. Luckily, those that are currently living in a home that focuses on quality around-the-clock care will likely not notice a difference.

Currently, the Put a Registered Nurse in the Nursing Home Act bill is making its way around various committees. The last significant update on the status of the bill was shortly after its announcement in February 2015 and no official vote date has been set.