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California's Historic RN-to-Patient Hospital Staffing Ratios Upgraded Again With New Year
Date:1/3/2008

OAKLAND, Calif., Jan. 2 /PRNewswire/ -- California's historic safe hospital staffing law, achieved through years of advocacy by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, completes its phase-in period as ratios on several units were lowered on Jan. 1, 2008 to meet state mandates for minimum safe care.

Over the five year course of their phase-in, these ratios have revolutionized hospital care and improved patient safety by mandating that hospitals maintain minimum, specific nurse-to-patient staffing ratios for all hospital units at all times.

Because of their achievements, the ratios have sparked a brush fire around the country by nurses demanding similar laws in other states.

Ratios differ by hospital area, such as a minimum of no less than 1 RN for every 5 patients in general medical or post-surgical care units, 1:4 in pediatrics, and 1:4 in emergency rooms.

The ratios are a floor, not a ceiling, with hospitals also required to increase registered nurse staffing as needed based on individual patient illness or acuity.

As of Jan. 1, new ratios are in effect for three specific units. They are: 1:3 in Step Down (transitional units between intensive care and general medical-surgical floors, reduced from 1:4), 1:4 in Telemetry (where patients are on monitors, improved from 1:5) and 1:4 in Other Specialty Care units such as cancer care (upgraded from 1:5).

"California's ratios are a spectacular success story," said Zenei Cortez, RN, member of the CNA/NNOC Council of Presidents. "Under our ratio law, lives are being saved, our ability to be effective advocates for our patients is stronger, and more RNs are entering the work force and staying at the bedside longer, mitigating the nursing shortage."

Since the law was signed, 80,000 more licensed RNs have come into the state's workforce.

CNA/NNOC has sponsored similar proposed bills in Arizona, Illinois, Maine, Ohio, and Texas, and is
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SOURCE California Nurses Association
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