Washington Senate greenlights nurse staffing ratios

The Washington state Senate has passed Senate Bill 5236, which will legally mandate nurse-to-patient staffing ratios if it survives the entire legislative process. 

The precise ratio would be determined by each hospital's nurse staffing committee, made up of 50 percent nursing staff and 50 percent hospital administration. The state health and labor departments can investigate any hospital that is less than 80 percent compliant with their committee's approved staffing level. The state can then request a corrective action plan or impose penalties, according to a news release from the Washington Senate Democrats. 

Forty-nine percent of Washington nurses have disclosed plans to leave the profession due to burnout and safety concerns. Nurses unions say mandated staffing ratios could ease their load, but hospitals fear they will lead to service cuts and closures if floors can't be adequately staffed. 

The bill now moves to the House, where its first reading is scheduled for March 8. 

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