Nurses: How Is Your Hospital Staffed, and Is It Safe?

Catherine Stokes, BSN


October 02, 2018

Unsafe nurse staffing is a problem that occurs in hospitals throughout the United States. Decades of research show that when nurses have too many patients to care for, outcomes are worse and mortality is higher.[1]

Some states have staffing legislation in place that requires hospitals to staff their units according to a staffing plan developed by a committee made up of at least 50% direct-care staff nurses. States with this type of legislation include Connecticut, Illinois, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, and Washington. Other states have regulations that address nurse staffing in some other manner; these include California, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Many states have no legislation or guidelines on nurse staffing.[2]

Some hospitals use staffing committees or acuity systems to determine their nurse staffing needs. Others use nurse-to-patient ratios for different units. Some hospitals use a combination of staffing methods. You can help me find out what type of, if any, staffing methods or plans exist in the nation's hospitals. I am conducting a survey of nurses to determine what bedside nurses are experiencing in their hospitals and to see whether nurses feel that staffing is safe where they work.

You can participate in the survey here. I encourage every nurse to answer the survey, and I will share the findings with Medscape readers after the survey is completed. Thank you.

Editor's note: This survey is being conducted by the author of this article, Catherine Stokes, BSN, on behalf of a national effort to improve hospital nurse staffing through legislation.


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