The power of nurses and our coworkers standing together and calling for change has brought us to a truly historic step toward safe staffing in Pennsylvania.

On Wednesday, Governor Wolf’s administration announced a proposal for long-overdue updates to Pennsylvania’s nursing home regulations, which have not been touched for 25 years: This proposal would update the staffing standard in nursing homes to require 4.1 hours of direct care per patient per day.

Pennsylvania’s archaic nursing home regulations include staffing standards that fall well below what’s needed to provide quality care. Under the current regulations, residents are only required to receive 2.7 hours of care per day. For years, we have been calling for a new safe staffing standard lifting that requirement to 4.1 hours, the minimum standard recommended by elder care experts, and now, Governor Wolf has taken a big step towards making that a reality. 

To be clear, this isn’t a done deal. We will need to continue advocating and speaking out to make sure this and other pieces of regulation reform move forward to make 4.1 a reality. And further action from the Wolf administration is needed. But we have never taken a bigger step towards improving staffing for this many patients, residents, and nurses in Pennsylvania. 

If passed, Pennsylvania will be the first state to adopt this standard, and lead the way in quality long-term care that has been sorely needed for years.

“We never stopped advocating for this change and now that it’s here, I have hope. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to say that.”

“We’ve known for a very long time that the current regulations aren’t good enough, our residents suffered for it, and it caused too much turnover,” said Kim Jackson, who has been a long term care LPN for 20 years. “We never stopped advocating for this change and now that it’s here, I have hope. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to say that.”

For decades, our long term care system has faced dwindling staffing, lower care standards, and revelations of fraud, abuse, and neglect. At the same time, those entering skilled nursing facilities arrive with far greater physical and intellectual needs. The result is a system that cannot prioritize residents or their caregivers and one that could not withstand a global pandemic. Over 13,000 nursing home residents have died from COVID and countless workers lost their lives and fell ill, making Pennsylvania one of the worst states in the nation for nursing home COVID deaths.

COVID made clear that we need to reform our long term care system. It’s time to focus on solutions that protect residents and those who care for them, and Gov. Wolf’s administration is taking a bold step to transform long term care. We need to all come together — workers, residents and their families, elected officials, and employers — and build a system of care that prioritizes people. We can’t do that without the regulations being proposed.

So, the biggest thing you can do right now to make sure this proposed update becomes a reality is to click here to tell the Department of Health and your legislators you support raising the Staffing Standard 4.1 to ensure safe staffing in our nursing homes, but we want to be clear that while this is a big step toward safe staffing in Pennsylvania, there’s a lengthy review process for regulatory updates.  

Below you can see a summary of the regulatory update review process, where we’re at, and what’s left:

As you can see, it’ll take more work to make 4.1 the safe staffing standard in Pennsylvania’s nursing homes. We will continue to advocate for the Patient Safety Act to ensure safe staffing in Pennsylvania’s hospitals too. But now, our fight to ensure safe staffing in Pennsylvania takes an unprecedented step forward.

– Nurses of PA