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HR Roundup: Sequestration Leads to Layoffs

Chelsea Rice, for HealthLeaders Media, April 22, 2013

Nurse staffing mandates proposed
The move to lock down nurse-to-patient staffing ratios in hospitals has been gaining momentum nationally. California is still the only state that mandates hospital minimum nurse staffing levels, but other states are trying to change that.

Last month two Democratic lawmakers in Pennsylvania introduced bills to establish state nurse-to-patient staffing ratios. In Michigan, legislators are working to reintroduce legislation for nurse staffing mandates in their state. The effort failed last year.

In California, Bill S.739 builds on the state's national precedence on this issue. As in the California law, this federal bill aims to apply nurse staffing mandates for all acute and long-term care hospitals that accept Medicare and Medicaid patients. Called the "National Nursing Shortage Reform and Patient Advocacy Act," the bill says hospitals cannot average their patient volumes and cannot impose mandatory overtime to meet the ratio requirements. Violations would cost hospitals as high as $25,000 per incident and $20,000 for individuals.

"We cannot guarantee high-quality healthcare to every American without supporting the nurses who work tirelessly every day to provide it," said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who proposed the legislation, in a statement. 

Hospitals would have to publicly post their nurse-to-patient ratio records for the past two years. The bill also proposes investing in nurse mentoring programs and training in order to teach nurses about working in a hospital. Whistleblower protection is also proposed for nurses who report staffing violations.

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