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Nurse Staffing Mandates Are Not a Silver Bullet

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media, February 12, 2013

Mandatory nurse staffing opponents argue that ever-changing healthcare landscape requires hospitals to be "nimble and flexible" when it comes to staffing, and that such mandates would to lead to "negative consequences for nurses involving the equity, efficiency, and costs of producing nursing care in hospitals."

Proponents, such as National Nurses United, argue that Washington, DC, needs a law like the one in California, which "has dramatically improved patient safety, brought 130,000 additional nurses back to the bedside, and has helped keep experienced nurses taking care of patients." In DC, 57% of nurses say staffing is always or almost always inadequate there, according to NNU.

Although appropriate nurse staffing is critical, researchers seem to agree that more study is needed to determine whether mandates like the one being proposed in Washington, DC, actually cause improvements in patient care.

One scenario that would render such mandates and studies moot: If  hospitals already had adequate nurse staffing.


Alexandra Wilson Pecci is a managing editor for HealthLeaders Media.

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