Study: Minimum staffing rules boost CA nurse pay

Wondering what the impact would be if your local hospitals were required to meet nurse staffing requirements? California, which implemented rules setting minimum nurse staffing levels in 2004, may offer an example worth considering.

To get a look at California's nursing market in the wake of these rules, researchers recently looked at what happened after California instituted a law setting 1:6 nurse-to-patient ratios (later 1:5) in acute-care hospitals. What they found was that when the rules were implemented, wages for registered nurses climbed faster than elsewhere in the country, even though the regulations allowed hospitals to substitute licensed vocational nurses for RNs to a limited degree.

Prior studies of the potential impact of these legislative changes had assumed that compensation for RNs wouldn't change, even though the studies also projected that the rules would generate big increases in demand.

One caveat: the new study, which appears in Health Affairs, notes that the practice isn't necessarily generalizable to other parts of the country, as California gives hospitals little freedom to substitute lower-paid LVNs for RNs.

To learn more about the study:
- read this Healthcare Finance News piece

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