New Jersey bill proposal would let nurses — not state law — set nurse-to-patient ratios

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New proposed legislation would let nurses determine nurse-to-patient ratios at New Jersey hospitals, according to local news source NJ Spotlight.

Bill A-5954 — introduced Nov. 18 by New Jersey Republican Assemblymember Nancy Munoz, RN — proposes having nurse-led committees determine nurse staffing levels for their hospital as part of the facility's licensing conditions. Committees made of at least 55 percent nurses would consider nurse experience, technological advances, patient needs and facility layout. Hospitals would have to file the staffing plan with the state department of health. 

The proposal has been referred to the Assembly health committee, but there is not a set date for a hearing yet. Seven other states have implemented similar plans.

"Ensuring nurses have input on staffing decisions makes nurses more effective and improves patients' care, that's the bottom line," Ms. Munoz said, according to NJ Spotlight. Though the current bill applies specifically to hospitals, Ms. Munoz hopes to expand it to other healthcare facilities, her staff told NJ Spotlight.

Another New Jersey proposal, supported by the Health Professionals and Allied Employees labor union, would set a state standard nurse-to-patient ratio.

"A one-size-fits-all approach could be a fatal conceit if mandated by the state," Ms. Munoz said about the set-ratio proposal.  

Currently, New Jersey hospital nurse staffing levels are determined by the state, with set minimums for some critical care units. 

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