81% of clinicians want state-mandated staffing ratios: Survey

Amid worsening reports of violence and burnout, more than 8 in 10 clinicians agree that their state should have laws governing staff-to-patient ratios, according to a recent survey

Vivian Health, a healthcare jobs marketplace, surveyed 863 U.S. clinicians between December 2023 and January 2024 to craft its fourth "Healthcare Workforce Report." Fifty-seven percent of respondents are nurses; 27% are allied health workers; 12% work as CMAs or CNAs; and 4% serve in advanced practice. 

When asked to rate their agreement with the statement "I believe that my state should have laws governing staff-to-patient ratios," 81% of clinicians agreed, with 70% noting that they "strongly agree." Thirteen percent took a neutral position, while 6% disagreed or strongly disagreed with state-mandated staffing ratios. 

Eighty-one percent of clinicians also said they would consider leaving a job that is not staffed "safely or properly." 

As of March 2022, 16 states had laws or regulations to address nurse staffing in hospitals — and the list is only growing, with six states currently considering or recently signing new legislation. 

These measures are largely supported by nurses and unions, who say that short-staffing leads to burnout and violence, and threatens patient safety. They are widely rejected by hospitals and health systems, whose executives say nurse-to-patient staffing ratios will be nearly impossible to meet, possibly leading to bed reductions. 

Few clinicians told Vivian Health that the issue has improved over the last 12 months. Nearly 40% said their typical patient load has increased since last year, and another 47% said it has remained the same. 

Clinicians also indicated rising rates of burnout (39% said their burnout has worsened since last year, and 46% reported clinical depression in the last 12 months) and violence (47% reported experiencing violence against themselves or a co-worker in the last year, and 42% felt unsafe at work in 2023). 

Forty-two percent of respondents have considered leaving healthcare entirely in an attempt to cure their burnout. 

"Our health depends on the well-being of our healthcare workforce," Parth Bhakta, founder and CEO of Vivian Health, said Feb. 20. "With a perfect storm of stressors affecting clinicians, it's crucial for employers to address their mental health needs and the incidents of violence in their workplaces."

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