What’s New for Nurses in 2017: Legislative Updates

Although 2016 brought some legislative disappointments-such as Congress's failure to pass Title VIII legislation, which is designed to reauthorize, update and improve nurse workforce programs-several states moved forward with an array of legislation and regulations that will affect nursing practice this year.

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Here's a Sampling of What's New For Nurses in 2017:

  1. Combatting Workplace Violence, Starting in California
    California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board approved regulations to prevent workplace violence in health care settings. The legislation (SB 1299) passed in 2014 and was sponsored by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United (CNA/NNU).

    Bonnie Castillo, RN, director of health and safety for CNA/NNU called the legislation a regulation landmark and a model for other states and the country. It requires every health care provider to develop a comprehensive workplace violence prevention plan. The plans must assess threats and risk of physical and verbal attacks and how to mitigate the risk. Nurses and other health care workers must be involved in the planning.

    The rules require hands-on training, competency validation and engineering controls, such as alarms. The regulation includes the entire health facility campus, including parking garages. The regulations require internal incident logs and reporting to Cal/OSHA, even if no injury occurred. And there is a provision to disallow retaliation if the nurse or other worker reports or calls in law enforcement.

    "The intent is to ensure all hospitals are safe and therapeutic," Castillo said. "The incidence of violence has increased."

    The union will meet with representatives of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in January about making these regulations national. NNU plans to advocate for passage of similar legislation in other states, and legislation to protect nurses in other settings, such as schools or retail clinics.

    "Every state needs this," Castillo said. "Nurses cannot provide a level of care their patients need if they are unsafe. If the nurse is at risk, everybody is at risk."

  2. Oregon's Nurse Staffing Law Takes Effect
    The Oregon Legislature passed nurse-staffing legislation in 2014 and all aspects of the law have taken effect as of January 1, 2017. It requires that hospitals create nurse staffing committees comprised of direct-care nurses and nurse managers to develop and approve staffing plans for their hospitals. The law also sets limits on mandatory overtime, creates a mediation process to resolve disagreements and requires regular audits by the Oregon Health Authority.

  3. Multistate Nurse Licensing and the Enhanced NLC
    The Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC), launched in 2000, allows nurses to have one multistate nursing license and practice in their home state and other compact states. Twenty-five states currently participate in the original compact, which streamlines the licensing process for many travel nurses.

    In 2015, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) developed an Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact, which lets nurses provide telehealth nursing services or respond to emergencies in fellow compact states without an additional license. The enhanced compact will come into effect when 26 states pass it or on December 31, 2018.

    South Dakota became the first state to pass the Enhanced NLC in 2016. Nine additional states have followed, and the NCSBN expects several more states to approve the new compact in 2017.

  4. Changes to Nurse Continuing Education
    Washington State has changed its continuing education requirements to include that nurses complete a mandatory 6 hours of continuing education in suicide assessment, treatment and management.

    Florida is considering a requirement that all nurses and other health care professionals complete a 2-hour continuing education course about human trafficking and domestic violence every third biennial relicensure or recertification. For nurses, the course must be approved by the Board of Nursing.

  5. State Scope of Practice Laws for Nurse Practitioners
    State regulations about how much autonomy nurse practitioners have in their practice are constantly changing. This State Practice Environment map from the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) can help you keep up on the latest news. Find travel NP jobs with AMN Healthcare.

National Ban on Powdered Surgical Gloves
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is banning the use of powdered gloves during surgeries, in patient examination gloves and absorbable powder for lubricating a surgeon's glove. The agency said that these products "present an unreasonable and substantial risk of illness or injury and that the risk cannot be corrected or eliminated by labeling or a change in labeling." The ban takes effect January 18, 2017.

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