New Senate bill to require hospitals to publicly report nurse-patient ratios

Thinkstock | iStock

Thinkstock | iStock

Nurse-patient ratios have been something of a hot-button issue for quite a while now, particularly as studies show that lower ratios can save lives. And now a new Senate bill may require hospitals to publicly report these nurse to patient numbers.

The Registered Nurse Safe Staffing Act of 2014 (S. 2353) does not set a federally mandated minimum nurse-patient staffing ratio, but it does require unit-by-unit reporting of the ratio by all hospitals.

Currently, California is the only state with mandated minimums for nurse-patient ratio. However, Massachusetts voters will decide if their state will implement a minimum when they vote on the Patient Safety Act this fall. It’s possible the Massachusetts legislature could pass the law before that.

The American Nurses Association (ANA) supports the new Senate bill, stating it doesn’t force a one-size-fits-all approach of mandated minimums.

“What works in a rural hospital in my hometown [in North Dakota] may not be the same thing in an urban trauma center,” said Jerome Mayer, associate director of the Department of Government Affairs at the ANA, according to “It allows flexibility and it also allows buy-in.”

What do you think? Will mandated minimums help you do your jobs better? California nurses: Have you seen a difference since the minimums were mandated? Let us know!



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5 Responses to New Senate bill to require hospitals to publicly report nurse-patient ratios

  1. nursesharib

    I just started yesterday in an ER with 5:1 ratios…OMG….my contract is for 8 weeks…counting already :-(

  2. simba

    I work on a med surg/pcu unit where nurses are required to take 6-7 pts. It is so unsafe. You try to express this to managers & administration & all they do is threaten employees. We leave our shifts praying we didn’t do anything wrong & our pts are safe & alive. Someone has to help the nurses with this growing problem that no one seems to care about.Pts need to start asking how many pts their nurse has.

  3. KristiBSN

    Having been on both sides of this issue I think it’s a win win for nurses and patient’s. Because of a rare, progressive cerebral vascular I had brain surgery in CA last fall, I was totally scared I would not receive excellent care because I was working on a neuro-med floor in the mid-West and knew our ratio and what our reality was; supposed to be 4:1 at start of shift but really 6:1. I always felt like I could never give my patients what they needed and deserved. Such a nice surprise in CA, while in neuro ICU my nurse or their relief were in my room 24/7, step down 3:1 but in room 24/7, on the floor 3:1. Never had to use my call light, if I ask the nurse for something non-nurse i.e. company to talk they were able and happy to, never felt like I was asking for something impossible.


    On our Geri-Psych unit, staffing is currently 1 RN and 2 techs to 8 patients on one hall for day and evening shifts. On the other hall, there is usually two RNs and one tech for up to 16 patients for days and evenings. At night, the entire unit only has 2 RNs and 2 techs for up to 26 patients. If the unit isn’t full, which it usually isn’t, we are open to admits at all hours. The other night, we got seven admits, which filled us up, and two of those were adult patients because that unit was also full! Considering the acuity of the patients, it isn’t enough, especially since the hall with 8 patients tends to be the one with the more aggressive and confused patients. And if we have patients that need 1:1 observation for combative behaviors or fall risks, we aren’t staffed for that unless we have more than one 1:1 patient; we have to take one of our current staff out of rotation to sit with that patient, which places extra burden on the remaining staff and less safety for the patients.

  5. Rina

    How about a 20:1 ratio on an intensive psych unit. It’s barely manageable but my co-workers work very hard to maintain a safe milieu