To mark Nurses Week, registered nurses from across California paid online visits to state legislators on May 11 and 12 to advocate in support of bills that advance the work of nurses and protect public health, the California Nurses Association (CNA) announced.

“Nurses are fierce fighters and patient advocates,” said Zenei Triunfo-Cortez, RN and a president of California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee (CNA/NNOC). “We know that lobbying for the betterment of our patients and public health is an integral part of that work. The Covid-19 pandemic has illuminated in stark and deadly relief that there is an immediate necessity for lawmakers to create enforceable standards around infection control, equipment inventory and distribution, Covid-19 testing for nurses, and to address the implicit biases that impact the health and well-being of millions of Californians.”

“As nurses who have been at the bedside during this devastating pandemic, we have seen how our hospitals failed both nurses and patients,” said Sandy Reding, RN and a president of CNA/NNOC. “While we carry the emotional scars of this pandemic, we also hold the insights on how best to address the failings that tragically led to the deaths of more than 62,000 Californians and 578,000 people in the United States. The changes we seek will strengthen our ability to care for our patients, and lead to a healthier California.”

The bills nurses are supporting include:

AB 805, which will create transparency around PPE procurement and distribution at a local level by requiring Medical Health Operational Area Coordinators to regularly report the distribution of PPE to the California Office of Emergency Services.

SB 637, which would require general acute-care hospitals to report levels of PPE on a daily basis during any health-related state of emergency proclaimed by the governor of California or the president of the United States. In addition, hospitals would also be required to report staffing shortages and publicly post notices of any nurse-to-patient waivers in effect.

Throughout the pandemic, hospitals have faced shortages of all types of PPE and have demanded that nurses reuse PPE, a practice that violates proper infection control, and would have led to disciplinary action against a nurse prior to the pandemic.

AB 858, which promotes patient safety by allowing nurses to use their clinical judgment when providing care to override a hospital’s algorithm when it is in the best interest of the patient. Algorithms are used to assist in managing the care of millions of patients, but a 2019 study found that a widely used commercial algorithm severely underestimated the health needs of the sickest Black patients and was far less likely to refer Black patients for additional care than White patients.

AB 1407, which would require nursing schools to include implicit bias coursework in their curriculum. It would also require hospitals to implement an evidence-based implicit bias program as part of their new graduate training program.

“The first step to addressing implicit bias is to raise awareness and educate nurses on what it is and how it pervades our healthcare system,” said Triunfo-Cortez. “We know it is only through education, discussion, and acknowledgment that we can bring an end to structural racism.”

AB 1105, which would require public and private employers of nurses in general acute-care hospitals to develop and implement a program to offer weekly Covid-19 testing for health care workers. The failure to test and trace all Covid-19 infections has resulted in undetected transmission, delays in critical treatment, and hastened the spread of the virus.

As of May 6, at least 41 nurses in California have died from Covid-19.

SB 213, When nurses become ill with an infectious disease, suffer musculoskeletal injuries, or develop post-traumatic stress disorder, it falls on the nurse to prove they became injured or ill due to their employment and are therefore eligible for workers’ compensation. This bill would expand workers’ compensation presumptive eligibility protections to nurses and other hospital employees. Currently, presumptive eligibility exists only for male-dominated first responders, such as firefighters and police officers.

AB 1400, would establish a single-payer healthcare system in California, called CalCare, which would ensure that all Californians, regardless of employment, income, immigration status, race, gender or any other considerations, can get the health care they need, free of charge at the point of service.