Patient Ratios Improve Nurse Safety

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Patient Ratios Improve Nurse Safety

Study shows drop in job-related injuries

By Working Nurse
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California’s mandatory minimum nurse-patient staffing ratios have been controversial, but a new study from UC Davis says the law has significantly reduced job-related injuries and illnesses among California nurses.

More Nurses, Fewer Injuries

The study, conducted by the UC Davis Center for Healthcare Policy and Research and published in the International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, examined Bureau of Labor Statistics data to identify trends in work-related injuries for California nurses since the mandatory minimum staffing ratios were enacted in 2004.

Although the law was intended primarily to protect patients, the study’s authors found that California nurses are also benefiting from the mandatory staffing ratios. Since 2004, the average rate of occupational illness and injury has fallen by 31.8 percent for California RNs and 34 percent for the state’s LVNs.

Lead author J. Paul Leigh, Ph.D., a professor of public health sciences at UC Davis, says the law’s impact on illness and injury rates may reflect reduced pressure on acute care nurses. For example, having more nurses available to help with repositioning patients may result in fewer back and shoulder injuries. Likewise, nurses being less rushed when doing blood draws and injections may result in fewer needle-stick injuries.

The Hospitals Win, Too

Some hospitals have criticized the California law — currently the only one of its kind in the U.S. — for increasing staffing costs. The study may sway some skeptics, showing that the law reduces workers compensation costs and increases job satisfaction for nurses, potentially reducing costly turnover.

The study did not address patient outcomes and the authors admit that other research has yet to reach a consensus on whether the law actually benefits patients.

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