NEW YORK NURSE: July/August 2008
by Nancy Webber
The regular state legislative session ended on June 25, two days after its scheduled conclusion. As often happens, legislators waited until the final days of the session to reach agreement on some important issues, including a major NYSNA priority.
This year brought two major legislative achievements for RNs. Early in the session, $4 million in new funding was allocated for nursing education programs at SUNY and CUNY schools. The second NYSNA victory came near the end of the legislative session, when the Assembly and State Senate both passed the long-promoted bill to end mandatory overtime. Gov. David Paterson has indicated he will sign the bill.
Winning the ban on mandatory overtime was a challenging battle that will have far-reaching and positive impacts on both the profession and patient safety. It is sure to be considered one of NYSNA’s greatest legislative accomplishments since the 1972 Nurse Practice Act.
Here is a status report on NYSNA’s other top-priority bills:
A bill that would require nurses to earn their bachelor’s within 10 years of initial licensure, while “grandfathering” practicing nurses and students, was referred to the Higher Education Committee in both houses. The chair of the Assembly committee has pledged to work with all interested parties to bolster the bill for next session.
This bill would establish minimum nurse-to-patient ratios in all healthcare facilities. It advanced in the Assembly from the Health Committee in March and from the Codes Committee in June. Unfortunately, there was no movement on this bill in the Senate.
Proposed legislation that would increase penalties for assaulting a nurse while on duty passed the Senate in April. The bill failed to advance from the Assembly Codes Committee due to opposition to the level of penalty required, which is the same as that for assaulting an on-duty police officer, firefighter, or emergency medical technician.
This bill would classify nursing among professions considered physically taxing in the New York Administrative Code, allowing city nurses to participate in the age 50/20-year retirement plan. The bill failed to advance from either house this session because cost projections by an outside actuary may have been inaccurate.
After a bill has been passed by both the Assembly and the Senate, it must still receive the Governor’s signature to become law. This session, Gov. Paterson has already signed into law several healthcare-related bills:
This law implements a more comprehensive alternative to the standard “do-not-resuscitate” form for non-hospital settings. The bright pink medical order form, also known as MOLST, does not take the place of a living will or healthcare proxy, but helps to ensure that a person’s detailed end-of-life wishes regarding life-sustaining treatment are followed.
This law requires that an RN trained and experienced in operating room nursing be present as a circulating nurse in an operating room for the duration of an operative procedure. The circulating OR nurse is allowed to leave the operating room for short periods and when being relieved by another circulating nurse. This bill was passed on June 10, the date of this year’s “Nurse Rally Day” event in Albany.
As of the time this issue of New York Nurse went to press, the following bills – already passed by both houses of the State Legislature – were still awaiting the Governor’s signature. He has 10 days to act on legislation after it is received at his office. A veto sends a bill back to step one for the next legislative session.
This bill would allow an antibiotic prescription for treatment of Chlamydia for an infected patient’s partner.
NYSNA fought for and won amendments to this bill to restrict it to flu vaccines and to prohibit unlicensed persons from administering immunizations.