July 28, 2022

Is nurse staffing legislation in the public’s interest?

By: Judy Mathias

Editor's Note

This study led by nurse researchers Linda Aiken, PhD, RN, FAAN, and Karen Lasater, PhD, RN, FAAN, at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, Philadelphia, finds that if New York state enacts nurse staffing legislation currently under consideration, many lives would be saved and shorter hospital stays would result in cost-savings.

The researchers analyzed data on nurse staffing in 116 acute care general hospitals in New York that are linked with Medicare claims data on 417,861 medical and surgical patients.

Among the findings:

  • hospital staffing ranged from 4.3 to 10.5 patients per nurse, and averaged 6.3
  • after adjustments, each additional patient per nurse for surgical and medical patients, respectively, was linked to higher odds of in-hospital mortality (odds ratios, 1.13 and 1.13); longer lengths of stay (incidence rate ratios, 1.09 and 1.05); and 30-day readmissions (odds ratios, 1.08 and 1.06)
  • hospitals that staffed at the 4:1 patient per nurse ratio proposed in the legislation were estimated to save 4,370 lives and $720 million over the 2-year study period due to shorter lengths of stay and avoided readmissions.

The majority of hospitals in New York state do not meet minimum nurse staffing required by the bipartisan sponsored legislation, “Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act,” currently under consideration, which, if enacted, would save lives and lower costs, the researchers conclude.

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