Patient deaths put hospital nurse staffing ratios under a microscope

After reports that two patient deaths were linked to low nurse staffing levels at Carlisle Regional Medical Center in Pennsylvania, questions have been raised about hospital cuts to nurses' jobs, as well as possible state-mandated staff ratios.

The state's health department last week reported that having too few nurses in the hospital did, in fact, play a part in the two deaths; one was a patient awaiting a hospital transfer, and another was a patient undergoing a scan. The hospital insists, however, that its quality of care is excellent, reports The Patriot-News.

"In our current environment, we have to be more vigilant than ever about nurse staffing ratios," Dr. David Nash, of Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, told the Patriot-News. "A natural cost-cutting avenue is cutting people. We have to be very careful not to cut nurses to save money. It's a penny-wise, pound-foolish strategy."

A state bill currently sits with the Senate for approval that would regulate nurse-patient ratios. Critics have argued that regulated staffing ratios would cut nursing levels, as they might not account for the acuity of patients or individual workloads at specific institutions. However, in California, mandates actually added registered nurses to hospital staffing, according to a Health Affairs study last month.

Nurses, particularly at magnet institutions, argue that they should have a say in such ratios at their own institutions.

"You absolutely have to work with your nurses," Sue Hallick, chief nursing officer at Geisinger, told the news outlet." They know what they do and see every day."

For more:
- read the The Patriot-News article

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