On Wednesday, May 6th, our State Representative, Aaron Bernstine, shared a post on social media about new legislation that he introduced to address the “nurse shortage” in Pennsylvania. It also proposes to “provide support” to “improve the quality of life” for nurses and health care professionals.
First of all – you want to fix a “shortage” that doesn’t exist?
Don’t get me wrong – I can totally support changing the law to allow all institutions approved by the U.S. Department of Education to provide RN programs in Pennsylvania. But there is not a shortage of registered nurses.
As of 2019, Pennsylvania employed 148,040 registered nurses, making us the fifth-largest employer in the United States. The only states who employed more are California (302,770), Texas (218,090), Florida (181,670), and New York (178,320).
On top of that, 25 out of every 1,000 people employed in Pennsylvania are registered nurses – which is more than California (17 per 1,000), Texas (17 per 1,000), Florida (20 per 1,000), and New York (18 per 1,000).
Do you want to know what the actual problem is? Staffing.
You don’t fix staffing issues by having more nurses. You fix it by preventing workplace turnover.
Our nurses work in high-stress environments, ridiculous amounts of hours, and aren’t paid enough for the amount of work that they do. And, recently, many of them take on more additional tasks than ever, in addition to the typical patient care. It’s no wonder why the turnover rates are higher than ever.
You want to “provide support, reduce stress levels, and improve job satisfaction” among those in the field?
Let’s start by fighting for them to make fair wages. Let’s fight for them to have mandatory time off after having to work overtime. Let’s stop treating nurses like they are ants in a colony. It is bad enough that the private healthcare industry profits off of their labor and their patients. Our nurses – the 148,000 we have now - need more support. They deserve better.
The starting salary for nurses in Pennsylvania is 9% less than the national average. And, in Beaver, Butler, and Lawrence County, the average is even 5% less than the rest of PA. So, not only do they work in a high-stress environment, but they are forced to work overtime just to get paid the same as people a few counties away.
Nurses are the front line of patient care - yet they make a fraction of what others are paid. New Doctors bring in nearly $200k a year in Pennsylvania, more than most Senior RNs make regardless of education or experience. And, healthcare CEOs usually bring in over $800k a year.
He doesn't care about nurses.
If Bernstine cared about nurses, he would demonstrate his respect through ACTIONS - not words.
He commended nurses for working on the frontlines during the pandemic; however, he has constantly displayed a disregard for the pandemic the entire time. He has riled his base into a war against Governor Wolf, who is just trying to do the best he can to keep Pennsylvania safe. Not everything has a political agenda - unless you're Aaron Bernstine.
Ironically, not once does he mention PPE, hazard pay, or guaranteed recovery time for workers that are working overtime. He didn’t mention it in his bill, he didn’t mention it in his statement to the Ellwood City Ledger, and he didn’t mention it when he was protesting in Harrisburg. Every single healthcare professional should be making hazard pay if they are working in direct contact with COVID-19 patients. Every single healthcare professional should have access to PPE. Every single healthcare professional deserves mandated time off to recover.
I find it absolutely disgraceful that Representative Bernstine would use “National Nurses Day” as an opportunity to win votes.
The saddest part of trying to make himself look good is that, in reality, this bill does absolutely nothing for the 148,000 nurses in Pennsylvania.
They deserve better.
Candidate for State Representative
Pennsylvania District 10
PA State Legislators, House Bill 2112: https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/billInfo/BillInfo.cfm?syear=2019&sind=0&body=H&type=B&bn=2112
US Bureau of Labor Statistics: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291141.htm