Illinois is one of the few states where the National Nurses Organizing Committee has sponsored a proposed bill to impose mandatory nurse to patient ratios. California has been experimenting with a hospital staffing law with revolutionary results in recent years. The improvement in patient safety has been drastic. The ratios are a minimum standard; hospitals are encouraged to go above and beyond the mandate. The ratios differ by hospital area, but none are higher than 1 RN for every five patients in general units or patients in post-surgical care, 1:4 for pediatric units and in the emergency room.
The important results of the law are plentiful, according to a member of the NNOC’s Council of Presidents. “Lives are being saved, our ability to be effective advocates for our patients is stronger, and more RNs are entering the work force and staying at the bedside longer, mitigating the nursing shortage.” A nurse explained that because they have more time to dedicate to individual patients they have time to check patients’ charts and maintain records, preventing treatment delays and medical mistakes, and that there is more time to teach patients and families about their situation so that they won’t have to return to the hospital for any complications.
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Despite the fact that hospitals lobbied to block the law, it passed and has seen great success. States like Illinois are in the same position. The law also helps give nurses better job stability, which will help end the nursing shortage, and will keep nurses at their current jobs. According to one RN, her hospital had a complete turnover of almost all RNs twice in only three years.