A law setting mandatory nurse-to-patient staffing ratios has reduced the number of workplace injuries for registered nurses and licensed practical nurses in California, according to recently published findings. Full findings have been published in the online version of the International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health.
The state law enacted in 2004 established minimum staffing ratios for acute care hospitals. It can be credited with a 32% average yearly reduction in registered nurse illnesses and injuries, according to investigators at the University of California, Davis. There also have been a third fewer injuries for licensed practical nurses. The increased staffing could prevent injuries in a number of ways. For instance, having multiple people to transfer a patient could reduce back and shoulder injuries.
The findings stemmed from an analysis of injury and illness rates tracked by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS routinely identifies nursing as one of the most dangerous professions in the country, and nursing homes as especially hazardous settings due to the propensity for staff to lift residents without mechanical assistance. Leigh and his colleagues believe their research could support similar staffing laws in other states. Many providers have expressed wariness about these laws, due to increased costs and the inconclusive findings regarding patient outcomes.