nurse staffing legislation introduced
a2004 (weinberg/conaway)/s555 (vitale) establish minimum registered professional nurse staffing levels for hospitals and ambulatory surgery facilities and certain department of human services facilities.
more than a decade of data link adequate and appropriate nurse staffing and positive patient outcomes. most recently, health professionals and allied employees/aft/afl-cio, released a national sample survey indicated that on average medical surgical nurses are caring for 8 patients, more than the most current research shows is safe. njsna participated in a press event at the statehouse releasing this study. several legislators, including the sponsors of the bills, were on hand to show support.
"they have all been receptive to the information and stories of declining quality of care shared with them by nurses over the years", said sharon r. rainer, rn, associate director and lobbyist for njsna. "these legislators have a commitment to quality healthcare in new jersey and believe that safe staffing levels are an important safety feature that must be built into the system".
other afl-cio affiliates support the staffing legislation as well as consumer groups. with nearly 60% of rns saying that staffing levels have a direct and negative impact on quality of care, consumers themselves are concerned when they or a family member gets admitted to a hospital.
hospitals and other health care facilities oppose the legislation citing the nursing shortage as the reason the "ratios won't work" and the deleterious effects of rising personnel cost amid declining reimbursements to hospitals as their primary reason for not being able to increase staffing.
according to many staff nurses working in hospitals, bear-bones staffing negatively impacts overall consumer satisfaction as well as staff satisfaction, making families more stressed and fearful that something will go wrong while increasing staff turnover rates.
consequently, says sharon r. rainer, rn, this increases the overall stress on the entire unit and places more demands on the registered nurse who is typically the one that helps families understand what is happening and helps them deal with their fears of illness and death".
alarming numbers of nurses surveyed in 2000 and again in 2002 say they would not recommend the nursing profession to their children and that they would not have someone close to them be cared for in the facility in which they work. greater than 60% of them say that they will leave their current position in a year, sadly, this includes new recruits.
in some cases things can go seriously wrong when too few people are taking care of patients. there is evidence to suggest that medical errors increase with too few nurses carrying out checks and surveillance activities. in addition, nurses may make more mistakes if their workloads are unrealistic.
"with too few nurses around, putting out fires becomes the norm and all the other things that nurses do so well get put on hold, indefinitely, says sharon r. rainer, rn.
njsna vigorously supports this staffing legislation. while no nurse believes it will cure all the ills of daily life on the units, it will put a level of safety in place that patients, families and nurses deserve...
2. a. in addition to staffing requirements provided by law or regulation on the effective date of this act, the commissioner of health and senior services shall adopt regulations that provide minimum direct care registered professional nurse-to-patient staffing ratios for all patient units in general and special hospitals and ambulatory surgery facilities in accordance with the requirements of this act. the regulations shall not decrease any nurse-to-patient staffing ratios in effect on the effective date of this act.
b. the regulations adopted pursuant to this section shall, at a minimum, provide for the following nurse-to-patient ratios:
(1) one registered professional nurse for every six patients on a medical/surgical unit for the first year after the regulations are adopted, and one registered professional nurse for every five patients thereafter;
(2) one registered professional nurse for every four patients in a step down, telemetry or intermediate care unit;
(3) one registered professional nurse for every four patients in an emergency department, one registered professional nurse for every two patients in a critical care service of an emergency department and one registered professional nurse for every patient in a trauma service of an emergency department;
(4) one registered professional nurse for every six patients in a behavioral health or psychiatric unit;
(5) one registered professional nurse for every two patients in a critical care, intensive care, neonatal or burn unit;
(6) one registered professional nurse for every patient under anesthesia in an operating room, and one registered professional nurse for every two post-anesthesia patients in a recovery room or post-anesthesia care unit;
(7) one registered professional nurse for every two patients in a labor and delivery unit; one registered professional nurse for every four patients, including infants, in a postpartum unit in which the mother and infant share the same room; and one registered professional nurse for every six patients in a mothers-only unit; and
(8) one registered professional nurse for every four patients in a pediatric or intermediate care nursery unit, and one registered professional nurse for every six patients in a well-baby nursery.
c. as used in this section and section 3 of this act, "direct care registered professional nurse" means a registered professional nurse who is assigned to provide care for one or more patients in a specific unit, service or department and is directly responsible for carrying out procedures, assessments or other nursing protocols.
3. the commissioner of health and senior services shall require all general and special hospitals and ambulatory surgery facilities to employ an acuity and staffing system, approved by the commissioner, for the purpose of increasing direct care registered professional nurse staffing levels above.
: contact your legislators now and ask for their support of s555 and a2004. go to www.njleg.state.nj.us
for contact information.