OLYMPIA – Sen. Annette Cleveland’s (D-Vancouver) bill to improve workers’ comp benefits for nurses passed the Senate on Monday. 

Nursing staff who care day after day for patients have faced tremendous and repeated stress since the start of the pandemic.  They have held the hands of dying patients and faced unparalleled patient surges driven by different COVID variants.  

A report by the International Council of Nurses concluded that COVID is causing mass trauma among nurses that results in both immediate and lasting effects. The report suggests the pandemic is causing a unique and complex form of trauma with potentially devastating consequences in both the short and long term for individual nurses and the healthcare systems they work in.  

Nursing has changed as a result of the pandemic and continues to be more challenging than ever, so it is critical that we address this cumulative trauma.  

One solution is changing eligibility for Washington’s workers’ compensation program.  

The Legislature already acknowledges that repeated exposure to traumatic events is considered an industrial injury for many of our first responders. That law does not currently include nurses, but that is what Senate Bill 5454 seeks to change.  

“This action can save lives,” said Chair of the Health and Long-Term Care Committee Sen. Annette Cleveland (D-Vancouver). “We know that those who suffer from repeated traumatic events have higher rates of suicide. Nurses have been on the front lines of the COVID pandemic and their work continues to be more challenging than ever before. This bill is about providing support to those nurses who continue to serve us selflessly.”

The bill now heads to the House for consideration.