—Legislation sponsored by Reps. KC Tomlinson (R-Bucks) and Thomas Mehaffie (R-Dauphin) was endorsed by health care workers who testified about the mental health challenges among health care workers brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“A recent Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that as many as three in 10 health care professionals are considering leaving the profession, of which half of those are due to burn out,” said Tarik S. Khan, MSN, RN, FNP-BC, president of the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association. “Burnout among nurses was common before COVID-19; the pandemic has only hastened it for many of them. The virus has caused many nurses to leave their units to pursue another career.”
To relieve the pressure on hospital staff, Kahn urged for the passage of Tomlinson and Mehaffie’s House Bill 106
, known as the Patient Safety Act, which would require a higher level of nursing staff at Pennsylvania’s hospitals.
“As we heard today, nurses have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic putting their lives on the line to keep patients in our communities safe,” Tomlinson said. “Unfortunately, nurses across the state are being assigned an increasing number of patients as staffing levels continue to decline.”
The Patient Safety Act legislation would set appropriate ratios for Pennsylvania hospitals dependent upon the acuity of the unit’s patient needs.
Kahn made his comments before the House Mental Health Caucus, which Tomlinson attended, investigating the impact of COVID-19 on local health care providers. He was joined by Patricia Stover, RN, MSN, NE-BC, vice-president, patient services/CNO for Doylestown Health; Dr. Ben Miller, chief strategy officer of Well Being Trust, a national foundation dedicated to advancing mental, social and spiritual health; Sharon Curran, chief executive officer, Lenape Valley Foundation; and Jennifer Collins, PsyD, chief well-being officer and clinical psychologist at Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health.
“Dealing with this pandemic created a multitude of emotions among our health care workers,” Stover said. “There was also a great deal of stress along with physical and mental exhaustion. Feelings of grief, fatigue, anger, fear and hopelessness were all contributors to this stress.”
She also noted that the hospital saw resignations from nurses soon after the pandemic outbreak. “We had 18 nurses resign or retire immediately when patients started getting admitted with COVID-19.” Stover said.
“It is so clear that action must be taken to ensure hospital patients are safe and get the best care possible,” Tomlinson said. “If we fail to relieve the pressure on our nursing staff, many more will leave the profession just when we need them most.”