STAFFING RATIOS: Nursing Profession, Patient Care in Danger
In an op/ed in yesterday's San Diego Union-Tribune nurse and free-lance writer Cindy Hasz writes that intense economic pressure in California, which has led to some of the lowest nurse-to-patient ratios in the country, "has turned our places of healing into veritable sweatshops." As a result, "demoralized" nurses, pushed to the limit, are "leaving the profession by the thousands," and patient care is "deteriorating," Hasz argues. While many administrators dismiss as "anecdotal" the mounting evidence that quality care is a casualty of insufficient nurse staffing, the California Nurses Association is not giving up. It is sponsoring AB 394, by Assemblywoman Sheila Kuhl (D-Encino), which would mandate "specific minimum ratios of licensed nurses to patients in all acute care units" -- much as staffing standards were set "for critically ill patients 22 years ago." Hasz notes that hospitals and HMOs are of course loathe to be subjected to further regulation. Not that health care administrators don't have "patient acuity" standards or nurse-to-patient ratios, she states, it's just that their standards often aren't high enough. "AB 394 would introduce some new math to the equation and insure that a nurse's patients don't multiply past his or her ability to take care of them" (6/17).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.