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NY Nurses Push for Safe Staffing Bill

Nurses say optimal staffing levels improve patient outcomes. (travisdmchenry/Pixabay)
Nurses say optimal staffing levels improve patient outcomes. (travisdmchenry/Pixabay)
May 15, 2017

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Assigning too many patients to a single nurse can be dangerous. That's the message nurses want state legislators to hear.

Nurses from across the state are calling for passage of the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act. The bipartisan bill has almost 100 co-sponsors in the State Assembly and nearly 30 in the Senate.

According to Anne Goldman, who chairs New York State United Teachers' Health Care Professionals Council, the under-staffing at hospitals puts health and lives of patients at risk.

"If we do not have a legislative mandate for staffing, the employer does not provide the adequate number of nurses necessary to provide optimum care,” Goldman said.

Opponents of the measure say hospitals and nursing homes should have flexibility to develop their own staffing levels tailored to patient needs. But nurses argue that administrators too often make cutting costs their top priority.

Goldman pointed out that, while patients in intensive care often get a 1-to-1 patient-to-nurse ratio, the medical and surgical units in hospitals frequently are understaffed.

"We have large numbers of patients to nurses, which does not make sense,” she said. "It exceeds what is reasonable to meet the patient care needs correctly."

The bill would also require hospitals to staff units with nurses who are trained for care in that unit.

Goldman said studies have shown that maintaining optimal patient-to-nurse ratios improves health outcomes. And, she added, the people doing the work know what it takes to get it done.

"I'm a nurse. I'm the person administering the care. It should be my input, my judgement, my choice - not someone that's a layperson heading the business,” Goldman argued.

California is currently the only state with legally-mandated nurse staffing levels.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY