The Michigan Nurses Association (MNA) has reignited the debate once again to mandate hospital nurse-to-patient ratio requirements and the banning of mandatory overtime for nurses.
The MNA recently met up with Michigan lawmakers in hopes of passing a bill known as The Safe Patient Care Act, which would make Michigan the second state to mandate hospital staffing levels. California is the only other state with a statewide nurse-to-patient ratio requirement.
If passed, this would require that every hospital have one-to-one nurse to patient ratios within the critical care areas, a one to four patient maximum in the pediatric and medical-surgical areas, and various ratios for the labor and delivery areas depending on patient stage. The law would also ban mandatory overtime for nurses except for in emergent situations.
There is research to support that increasing nursing staff may help to decrease hospital-acquired infections, and furthermore, decrease hospital-related deaths. The bottom line is that in order to deliver quality, safe patient care, there needs to be an adequate number of nurses in place to make this happen. Sounds great, right? Well, some hospital administrators feel differently about this issue.
Hospital administrators claim that while spending money on increasing nursing staff to maintain nurse to patient ratios, other services would be at risk of being cut in order to balance the hospital budget. In addition, while California is the only state with this law in place, some legislators have implied that they have not witnessed drastic improvement in their system.
Another concern for opposing legislators is that it may be difficult to hire more nurses to fill the ratio requirements when a nationwide nursing shortage currently exists.
Supporters of this proposed law suggest that hospitals chronically understaff nurses in order to save money, but in the end, hospitals may spend more on patient readmissions, hospital-acquired infections not reimbursed by Medicare, and overtime pay spent on nurses who are mandated to work overtime.
While the bill has been rejected in previous years, the MNA is not ready to throw in the towel just yet -- in fact, they may have a reason to gain more momentum as patients become more critically ill and the staff nursing shortage continues to grow.
As we stay tuned and wait for the outcome of this proposed bill, I would like to hear your thoughts. Do you feel the implementation of such a law would be a help or a hindrance to hospital nursing staff? Also, if such a law were to reach other states, would this help attract more people into the nursing profession and help to minimize turnover?