Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Proposed Federal Legislation Would Establish Minimum Nurse/Patient Ratios, Provide Whistleblower Protections

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) recently reintroduced legislation that would establish minimum nurse-to-patient ratios, require hospitals to implement nurse-to-patient staffing plans, and provide whistleblower protection for patients and hospital employees. The National Nursing Shortage Reform and Patient Advocacy Act (S. 992) is the latest in a number of bills introduced in recent years that are designed to provide nurses – and their unions – with greater influence on nurse staffing levels. The proposed ratio calls for:

‘(1) IN GENERAL- Except as otherwise provided in this section, a hospital’s staffing plan shall provide that, at all times during each shift within a unit of the hospital, a direct care registered nurse shall be assigned to not more than the following number of patients in that unit, subject to paragraph (4):

‘(A) One patient in trauma emergency units.

‘(B) One patient in operating room units, provided that a minimum of 1 additional person serves as a scrub assistant in such unit.

‘(C) Two patients in critical care units, including neonatal intensive care units, emergency critical care and intensive care units, labor and delivery units, coronary care units, acute respiratory care units, postanesthesia units, and burn units.

‘(D) Three patients in emergency room units, stepdown units, pediatrics units, telemetry units, antepartum units, and combined labor, delivery, and postpartum units.

‘(E) Four patients in medical-surgical units, intermediate care nursery units, psychiatric units, and other specialty care units.

‘(F) Five patients in rehabilitation units, and skilled nursing units.

‘(G) Six patients in well-baby nursery units and postpartum (3 couplets) units.

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