State-mandated staffing ratios increase nurses

Despite fears about mandated staffing ratios, state-regulated staffing ratios in California actually added (not decreased) registered nurses to hospital staffing, according to a study published in Health Affairs.

Since 1999 when California passed a minimum nurse-to-patient staffing ratio, nursing and patient advocates worried that the law would translate into hospitals hiring lower skilled nurses to meet the staffing mandate. However, after implementation, hospitals actually increased their nursing skill mix and used more skilled registered nurses, according to the study.

A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that understaffed units are linked to higher patient mortality by 2 percent.

"California's state-mandated nurse staffing ratios have been shown to be successful in terms of increasing registered nurse staffing," said lead researcher Matthew McHugh, a nursing professor at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, in a statement, reports UPI. "From a policy perspective, this should be useful information to the states currently debating legislation on nurse-to-patient ratios."

For more:
- read the study abstract
- read the article

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