6 New Health Care Laws for 2017 You Might Have Missed


by Debra Wood, RN, contributor

New Healthcare Laws for 2017In a world that seems less safe all of the time, some states have moved forward with legislation and regulations to enhance patient safety and/or the safety of nurses and other health care workers in 2017. One state has also given new power to patients to make their own life-and-death decisions.

1. No more powdered gloves
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has banned the use of powdered gloves, whether in surgery or exam gloves and the powder used to lubricate a surgeon’s gloves. The powder can cause allergic respiratory reactions, airway inflammation, wound inflammation and post-surgical adhesions.

“This ban is about protecting patients and health care professionals from a danger they might not even be aware of,” said Jeffrey Shuren, MD, director of FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, in the announcement. “We take bans very seriously and only take this action when we feel it’s necessary to protect the public health.”

2. Nurses learning to protect the public
Some states are changing continuing education requirements so that nurses and other health care professionals become more familiar with issues facing people in today’s society.

Washington State now requires nurses complete a mandatory 6 hours of continuing education in suicide assessment, treatment and management. The state’s Department of Health reports that suicide is the eighth leading cause of death for Washington residents of all ages and the second leading cause among youth ages 15 to 24 years. 

Florida is close to passing a new requirement that nurses must complete a 2-hour, Board of Nursing-approved continuing education course about human trafficking and domestic violence every third biennial relicensure or recertification. The domestic violence requirement already exists; the trafficking component will be new. The state dealt with 410 human trafficking cases in 2016, mostly sex trafficking. The education will help nurses recognize the problem and help those affected.

3.Preventing workplace violence in health care
California has enacted legislation and the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board approved regulations to prevent workplace violence in health care settings. The law pertains to patients as well as nurses and other health care workers. Health care providers are required to develop comprehensive workplace violence prevention plans that include risk assessments and mitigation of both physical and verbal attacks. The rule requires nurses to participate in the planning. The regulation pertains to the entire health care campus, including parking lots. 

Bonnie Castillo, RN, director of health and safety for California Nurses Association/National Nurses United, a sponsor of the legislation, explained that the rules aim to make hospitals safer and more therapeutic at a time when violence is escalating. She considered it a model for other states and the nation.

4. Inching closer to new nurse licensure compact
For travel nurses, obtaining a nursing license in each state where they work can be onerous and expensive, especially if they don’t have a travel nursing agency helping them out. But 25 states now belong to the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC), which makes the process easier for working in other compact states. 

Two years ago, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing introduced an Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact and 10 states have joined. New provisions in the enhanced legislation allow nurses to have greater mobility across state borders while maintaining public protection. Nurses can also provide telehealth nursing services or respond to emergencies in fellow compact states without an additional nursing license. The enhanced compact will take effect on December 31, 2018, or when 26 states have joined.

The 10 states that had passed the new legislation by end of 2016 included Florida, Idaho, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Tennessee, South Dakota, Virginia and Wyoming. Several more states are expected to pass the legislation this year. 

5. Nurses obtain a say in staffing
In Oregon, nurses will have a voice in determining staffing plans for their hospitals. The nurse-staffing legislation requiring staffing committees and plans was passed in 2014 and takes effect this year. The law also addresses mandatory overtime and provides regular audits by the Oregon Health Authority.

6. Five states now have “right to die” law
As of January 1, 2017, terminally-ill residents of California who meet certain requirements may now request an aid-in-dying drug from their physicians.

The End of Life Option Act makes California the fifth state in the country to create a legal process for patients to obtain aid in dying. The other four states are Colorado, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. The new California law requires physicians to submit specified forms and information to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). Advocates say people should have the right to die with dignity and decide when they have endured enough pain; opponents argue patients could feel pressure to take their own lives.

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