Nursing Notes

December 16, 2010

Medical Care in Pennsylvania: Nurse to Patient Ratios

The Great Seal of the State of New Jersey.
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This is a short article I found on the Pennsylvania Law Monitor published by Stark and Stark Attorneys at Law.  I read it, twice.  I find that a 10 to 13% reduction in mortality rates is not something to be ignored.

Today, I watched the news about the side-drop baby crib problem where it was stated that the design of these beds had led to several (less than 100) deaths and now these beds are forbidden to be sold.  But a reduction of 10-13% mortality in hospitals is not okay?  Where is the sense of this?  Where is the public outcry. I understand that my example may be weak–after all we are talking about baby safety–but what about all the senseless deaths that are occurring daily because nurses cannot do the jobs they were trained to do.

When did it become okay for nurses to be the janitors, the transporters, the phlebotimists, the nurse’s aide, and the legal department?  Most nurses just want to be able to nurse patients.

Let me know what you think, won’t you?  This article was found here.


Pennsylvania Law Monitor

Posted at 8:06 AM on December 10, 2010 by Mary M. Labaree

In The Works
In Pennsylvania, House Bill 147 was introduced in January 2009 and remains “in committee.”  A similar version was sponsored in the PA Senate.  Among other provisions, they establish RN – to -patient ratios in the Commonwealth. Specifically, the legislation would establish the following minimums:

  • 1 nurse:1 patient – PR and trauma emergency units;
  • 1 nurse: 2 patients – Critical care, including emergency critical care and all ICUs, labor and delivery units, and post-anethesia units;
  • 1 nurse: 3 patients – Ante partum, emergency room, pediatrics, step-down and telemetry;
  • 1 nurse: 4 patients – intermediate care nursery and medical/surgical and acute care psychiatric units;
  • 1 nurse: 5 patients – rehab units;
  • 1 nurse: 6 patients – postpartum and well-baby nursing units

Why Should You Care?
Nurse-patient ratios can have a significant impact on patient outcome. A research study published in 2010 in the journal Heath Services Research, entitled “Implications of the California Staffing Mandate for Other States” by Linda Aiken, and others, compared 2006 data from three states, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey and California in terms of patient mortality and failure-to-rescue based on the nurse:patient variable.  California has long required a minimum ratio of nurses to patients. Pennsylvania’s bill  is still “in the works”.

The research found that nurses in California were assigned, on average, about one fewer patient each when compared to Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  This may not appear significant on the surface but, in fact, the ratio of nurses to patients correlated negatively with patient mortality.  In other words, the higher the ratio of nurses to patients, the lower patient mortality.  Even more disturbingly, in the med-surg areas, the difference in number of patients cared for was even greater for both Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

The researchers extrapolated the findings to ascertain whether changes in staffing for the two states, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, would materially impact mortality rates.  They predicted a reduction in mortality rates by 10.6 and 13.9 percent in Pennsylvania and New Jersey respectively.

Stark & Stark – Offices

  • 777 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067 T: 267-907-9600
  • 993 Lenox Drive, Lawrenceville, NJ 08648 T: 609-896-9060
  • 1800 JFK Boulevard, Suite 403, Philadelphia, PA 19103 T: 215-564-5300
  • 40 Lake Center Executive Park, 401 Route 73 North, Suite 130, Marlton, NJ 08053 T: 856-874-4443
  • One Penn Plaza, Suite 2130, New York, NY 10119 T: (212) 279-9090 F:(212) 279-9113
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