Nurse ratios: One size doesn't fit all

This month, Massachusetts legislators are debating a bill that could mandate minimum nurse staffing standards. In 1999 California enacted nursing ratios and 14 other states are in the process of doing so as well, yet the debate continues as to whether or not state-mandated staffing standards are the key to creating successful health systems. The discussion centers around a simple concept: One size does not fit all.

The Medical Center, Beaver near Pittsburgh established nurse-to-patient ratios in 2003 and has since reaped the rewards of better patient safety, higher job satisfaction and financial success. However, The Medical Center's ratios vary from those proposed in the Massachusetts bill because they allow for greater flexibility. As one nurse observed, state mandates don't allow for instances in which an employee calls in sick to work: "That's what people fail to understand when they talk about legislative ratios--at the end of the day, you'll always get to a time or a place where you just don't have the nurse that you might need."

- check out this article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette