Nurse staffing regulation efforts expand: 6 updates

As of March 2022, 16 states had laws or regulations to address nurse staffing in hospitals, according to the American Nurses Association. The list has grown since, as officials and lawmakers in more states consider or sign related legislation. 

Here are six updates:

1. New Jersey lawmakers plan to discuss codifying into law legislation limiting how many patients a nurse can take care of at a given time, NJ Spotlight News reported. The legislation would establish minimum registered professional nurse staffing standards for hospitals and ambulatory surgery facilities and certain state-run facilities. Ratios would vary by unit. The New Jersey Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens is slated to discuss the legislation Jan. 4, and no vote is scheduled.

2. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed staffing legislation into law in April aimed at addressing the healthcare worker shortage. The law requires hospitals to follow staffing standards. As part of the law, hospitals must have established staffing committees composed of nursing staff and administrators by Jan. 1, according to the Washington State Standard. The committees must approve annual staffing plans and submit them to state officials by 2025, the publication reported. If hospitals fall below 80 percent compliance with their staffing plans, they are required to report noncompliance to the state. 

3. In Michigan, legislation is currently proposed, via Senate Bills 334-336 and House Bills 4550-4552, that would mandate nurse-to-patient staffing ratios in hospitals. The Michigan Health & Hospital Association estimates 5,100 hospital beds would close if the legislation is enacted and staffing levels do not change. The Michigan Nurses Association supports the legislation.

4. Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek last summer signed a minimum nurse staffing mandate for hospitals. House Bill 2697 establishes enforceable nurse-to-patient ratios in state statute for various hospital settings, as well as staffing committees for other hospital workers. The law took effect in September. 

5. The Pennsylvania Patient Safety Act, which would mandate nurse-to-patient ratios in hospitals, was passed in June by the Pennsylvania General Assembly. It was referred to the Pennsylvania Senate Health and Human Services Committee on July 17.

6. The Ohio Nurses Association joined state Reps. Haraz Ghanbari and Elgin Rogers on Sept. 27 to introduce staffing legislation. The bill would establish legally enforceable minimum staffing standards for nurses at hospitals in the state and incentivize people to go into nursing, according to a union news release. A spokesperson for the Ohio Hospital Association, meanwhile, told Becker's the organization opposes mandated approaches to nurse staffing, adding that it would increase stress on the healthcare system and reduce care flexibility.

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