By: Kristin Roers, MS, RN, CPPS
Vice President of Government Relations for North Dakota Nurses Association
The 2017 Legislative Session is over, but the work continues! It has been a busy session, with our nursing organizations following over 100 separate bills. These bills range from issues of direct interest to nurses, like the RN and APRN Compact Licenses, to issues that are more distant, like the idea of a Dental Therapist. Some of the bills we watched helped us to determine trends in other areas of healthcare, while others directly affect nurses in our state.
Leaders from nursing across the state were able to speak on behalf of nurses on a number of issues:
- CARE Act – AARP introduced a version of their CARE Act, relating to hospital discharge policies and the identification of a caregiver after discharge. While the intent of the bill, that family caregivers should be competent to care for their loved ones after discharge, is something that nursing supports, the specific wording in this bill would have placed a huge and unnecessary burden on bedside nurses. Because of this, NDNA, along with the ND Hospital Association (NDHA) testified against this bill and it was defeated.
- Carbon Monoxide – NDNA worked with a father from Colorado who had lost his daughter to Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning to get a bill introduced to require CO detectors in all existing apartment complexes (they are currently required in all new apartment buildings and houses). NDNA, along with the Fire Chiefs’ Association and many private citizens who had lost loved ones testified in favor of this bill. This bill was passed by both houses of the legislature, but was vetoed by the Governor.
- EMS Supervision – a bill was introduced that would have changed the current supervision requirements of Paramedics or EMT’s working in a hospital setting. Current law states that they must be supervised by a nurse, while the bill proposed to change that to being supervised by a physician. NDNA testified to some of the history of how that original law was created, as well as the fact that, in many facilities, the only staff that is present to supervise is a nurse. The bill was amended, based on our testimony to be more inclusive of who can supervise, so that organizations can be flexible to meet their needs. This bill was passed and signed by the Governor.
- Faculty Loan Repayment – working with the ND Center for Nursing, NDNA testified in favor of adding Nursing Faculty to eligible groups able to apply for Loan Repayment through the state. We know that it is imperative to have more nursing faculty to be able to meet the workforce needs for nurses in ND. This bill was did not pass, as it felt to the legislators as a slippery slope to expand from the original intent of the loan repayment program.
- Workplace Violence – NDNA worked with the ND Medical Association (NDMA) to draft and introduce a bill designed to increase penalties for assaults committed against workers in a healthcare facility. We know that workers in the healthcare field are more likely to be assaulted at work than every industry other than law enforcement. NDNA wants every nurse to feel safe at work. NDNA, NDMA and NDHA all testified in favor of this bill. This bill did pass, but was amended so that it only includes assault with a body fluid or excrement, rather than all physical assaults as originally written.
In 2017, NDNA participated in two Nurses Days in Bismarck – we were a sponsor at the ND Center for Nursing’s Legislative Day on February 6th, where we had a booth to provide information to participants on what NDNA does and how to join. We also hosted a Nurses Day at the Legislature as a part of the Nursing Student Association of ND (NSAND) Annual Convention on February 20th. Over 200 students and members attended committee meetings, an Advocacy 101 discussion, and sat on the floor with legislators. This increased visibility of nursing at the legislature helps keep our issues in front of legislators!
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