Nurse staffing ratios win over West Coast

Mandated nurse-to-patient ratios now span the West Coast, from California to Oregon to Washington. 

Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek signed the state's mandate Aug. 16. Under the new law, hospitals will be required to establish staffing committees for nurses and professional, technical and service staff, with specific criteria. Hospitals that do not comply with their staffing plans can be penalized. 

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee inked a similar measure April 20, requiring hospitals to create internal staffing committees and maintain at least 80 percent compliance with their assigned nurse-patient ratio. 

California was the first state in the nation to mandate nurse staffing ratios two decades ago; results have been mixed, depending on whom you ask. Nurses say working conditions and patient outcomes have improved, bettering retention in the profession. Hospitals, meanwhile, say the ratios are ineffective and require money and resources they do not always have. 

Regardless, California has set the stage for a nationwide push toward nurse staffing laws. A number of states on the East Coast — including New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts — are mulling similar regulations. 

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