Martha Marx


Martha Marx



March 27, 2023


This afternoon, legislation seeking to ensure safe and adequate health care staffing passed the Public Health Committee, advancing it to further consideration in the Senate. The bill, which has been co-sponsored by a number of legislators, received comments in support on Monday from State Senator Martha Marx (D-New London), whose work as a nurse provides her with first-hand knowledge of the importance of safe health care staffing.

“For the last three years, we have called nurses working in hospitals ‘heroes.’ I can tell you, most nurses can’t stand that,” said Sen. Marx. “Nurses didn’t go into nursing to be ‘heroes;’ they went into it to be nursing advocates. The job of a nurse is to be a patient’s advocate. There isn’t actually a shortage of nurses; there’s a shortage of nurses willing to work in hospitals. Medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in the United States – as many as 251,000 people die each year from medical errors. That happens all the time in hospitals – due to overwork and lack of safe staffing.”

“Let’s talk about what patients in Connecticut deserve,” Sen. Marx said. “They deserve the absolute best care. They deserve not to die when they’re in the hospital. Their nurses deserve to be their best possible advocates. If you’re going to vote against this bill, you’re voting against nurses. You’re voting no against improving patient outcomes. I will be voting yes, and I will vote yes loudly, and I ask those who may not to visit a hospital, visit an ICU for 12 hours and see what it’s like.”

Senate Bill 1067, “An Act Concerning Adequate and Safe Health Care Staffing,” would if passed implement new nurse staffing plans by 2028 that would provide new ratios of patients to registered nurses providing direct patient care including four-to-one in emergency departments, two-to-one for patients requiring intensive care in emergency department, one-to-one for trauma patients in emergency departments and three-to-one for progressive care. Further ratios include medical-surgical, pediatric, operating room, post-anesthesia recovery, oncology, orthopedics, psychiatry, labor and delivery, postpartum, nursery and neonatal intensive care units. The ratios also include patients to assistive personnel providing patient care per corresponding patient care unit.

As well, hospitals would be required to post nurse staffing plans in visible locations in each patient care unit with accurate records held of patient-to-nurse ratios in direct care and assistive roles. If a nurse feels an assignment would violate safe staffing ratios or is not properly trained or educated to handle an activity or task, they would be allowed to object without concern of retaliation by their employer. Importantly, nurses would not be punished for declining overtime assigned less than 48 hours before a shift of more than 12 hours in a 24-hour period, immediately following their shift or more than 48 hours per week; nurses can volunteer or agree to work that overtime, and overtime will be required in instances of emergency. Hospitals will be required to make good-faith efforts to cover overtime on a voluntary basis to pre-empt the need for mandatory overtime, and mandatory overtime will not be required for nurses.

This legislation was supported in public testimony by dozens of nurses and medical professionals, many of which were submitted anonymously, with those submitting expressing concern of retaliation by their employers. “A lean staffing model was created during the COVID-19 pandemic and hospital executives have found how to make this benefit their pockets,” wrote one anonymous staffer at St. Francis Hospital in Hartford. “This is not a sustainable business model when the product delivered is your life, your husband’s life, your wife’s life, your children’s lives or your parents’ lives.”

“Throughout my years at the bedside I have encountered countless errors and misses due to the undue burden that is placed upon bedside nurses,” said another anonymous piece of testimony, written by a bedside nurse with 14 years of experience. “It’s a scary time to be a patient.”

David Pfau, a registered nurse and member of Backus Federation of Nurses, testified that when forced to work mandatory overtime, he struggled to ensure quality health care for patients – and fell asleep while driving home, nearly experiencing a serious car crash. “If you were in Backus Hospital, would you or a loved one like to be taken care of by a nurse that is exhausted… and has a much greater chance of making a mistake or missing vital change in status… because he was mandated? If the answer is no, please support SB 1067.”