Mandating nurse staffing ratios

Other states haven’t followed California’s lead, most likely for a few reasons. Legislated nurse-patient ratios perpetuate the myth that “a nurse is a nurse” by failing to account for differences in nurses’ skill levels and expertise as well as hospital resources and other support for nursing care.Second, to meet mandated ratios, many California hospitals are laying off unlicensed healthcare personnel, housekeepers, and other support staff.Traditionally, of course, hospital administrators have cut costs by cutting the nursing staff because nurses’ salaries make up almost 50% of a hospital’s operating budget.Today, the demand for nurses continues to grow, and well-publicized reports and research suggest that nurses are vital to maintaining patient safety and quality patient outcomes.(See Requirements for staffing systems in pdf format by clicking on the download now button.) In a few states, some interesting alternatives to mandated nurse-patient ratios have evolved.In New Jersey, hospitals are required to publicly post the ratio of healthcare workers, including RNs, LPNs, and CNAs.

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Sharing such information with hospital administrators may allay fears that worthwhile hospital initiatives have to take a backseat to hiring nursing staff.

This review gives you an update on mandated nurse staffing ratios and alternative approaches for hospitals.

Momentum shift In 1999, California became the first state to pass legislation mandating licensed nurse–patient ratios for units in acute-care hospitals.

These layoffs may increase the amount of nonnursing work that RNs must do.

At least for now, a doubling of California nurse graduates in the last couple of years has helped reduce the nursing shortage and limited the adverse effects of this decision.

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