OLYMPIA – Nurses who have suffered repeated traumatic events, like those experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, will soon have access to improved workers compensation benefits.  

Gov. Jay Inslee signed Sen. Annette Cleveland’s (D-Vancouver) Senate Bill 5454, which recognizes repeated exposure to traumatic events as an occupational disease.  

A report from the International Council of Nurses found nurses are facing mass trauma as a result of the pandemic, which could lead to devastating consequences for individual nurses and the health care systems they work in.  

Nurses often face  barriers to receiving support for their own mental health care, and this legislation will help to remove them.  

“For the past three years, nurses have been on the front lines of this unprecedented health emergency. They have held the hands of dying patients, saved countless lives, and have shown up day after day despite unbelievable challenges,” Cleveland said. “They have taken care of us and now it is time for us to take care of them.”  

“Quality care for patients is a holistic approach which embodies the physical, emotional, and psychosocial dynamics of health and healing. Nursing embodies holistic care, but the quiet suffering of repeated trauma exposure has damaged the health and welfare of nurses,” said Shawn Mork, SANE, and RN on staff at the Washington State Nurses Association. “This important change to L&I brings the silent suffering into the light by providing care and support for nurses as they heal from repeated and complex trauma.”  

This bill goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2024.