Nowadays, staff reduction is the main policy in many global companies and businesses, which causes loss of clients sometimes. Still, when the business involves health care and human life, it is crucial to provide patients with high-quality services, which is possible only with adequate staffing. Recently, there have been made attempts to pass legislation to regulate the levels of nursing staff at certain medical providers.
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The bill introduced in 2015 under the title of S.1132 – Registered Nurse Safe Staffing Act was meant to provide patient protection by increasing nursing staff at the medical organizations is based on several research findings. Therefore, the bill proposes the establishment of such nurse staffing levels that would be safe for the patients. Its major provisions also include the establishment of the nursing committee and reporting to the public some staff information, as well as recording and keeping appropriate data on nursing services by medical organizations.
The background of the bill includes poor quality of patient care in the hospitals. The bill is based on several types of research. Primarily, it was stated that “patient safety in hospitals is directly proportionate to the number of registered nurses working in the hospital” (“S.1132 – Registered Nurse Safe Staffing Act of 2015,” 2016, para. 6). The higher nursing staff in the hospital results in the lower negative outcomes for the patients. It is also noted that lower nursing staff causes fatigue of the workers resulting in medical and patient care errors. The conditions of work are lower when the staff of the hospital is not optimal, which causes a turnover.
An adequate level of nursing staff is believed to influence not only the health of the patient but also cases of death. In the past decade, some attempts were made in different states to improve the optimal nursing staff in hospitals by appropriate legislation, which improved the quality of services. Some researchers emphasize that “the risk for patient death increased 2% each time a patient was exposed to shifts with below-target registered nurse staffing” (Buppert, 2017, p. 1). Therefore, the higher amount of licensed nurses in hospital staff changes the quality of patient care. For example, the legislation dealing with the fixed number of licensed nurses in the hospital staff was implemented in 2004 in California. After the implementation of the legislation, the number of nursing staff raised significantly compared to the other states, which was beneficial for the patients. Similar legislations or union contracts to regulate staffing in hospitals were implemented in Ohio and New Jersey. The State of Washington has also passed a bill dealing with nurse staffing committees and reports of staffing levels available to the patients.
Some researchers agree that nurse staffing affects the delivery and quality of health care services to the patients, which directly influences patient outcomes, including medical errors and mortality (Spetz et al., 2013). Still, there are many debates over the federal legislation that might regulate this issue. The problem is mainly in the financial costs of keeping large nursing staff. That is why the current bill is not supported by some health care organizations. They also doubt the impact of increasing nursing staff on the patient outcome despite all the studies conducted over the past decade and some positive examples.
Nevertheless, the American Nurses Association (ANA) is regarded to be the key supporter of legislation that gives nurses the opportunity to create specific staffing plans for each hospital. It is stated that “This approach aids in establishing staffing levels that are flexible and account for changes; including intensity of patient’s needs, the number of admissions, discharges, and transfers during a shift, level of experience of nursing staff” (Buppert, 2017, p. 4). Thus, the key supporters stand for the balanced approach ensuring adequate nurse staffing at health care organizations to meet the demands of the patients.
Although it is difficult to find a compromise to keep the patients satisfied and the profit high, the key stakeholders of the bill such as Senator Jeff Merkley and his supporters tried to research this area and make some adequate suggestions. There are many factors that may influence staffing needs, including patient complexity, level of skills, physical space, and needs of the patients. Thus, mandated nursing ratios, public reporting, and staffing committees are the main propositions at the present moment. Although hospitals oppose the obligations to make public the rates of hired people, it is in the public interest to ensure the security of the patients through a sufficient amount of nursing staff in hospitals.
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Implementing federal legislation to deal with nursing staff rates in hospitals will give the nurses the opportunity to provide better care for the patients and ensure their safety. Some studies identified that at the present moment many nurses feel that they do not provide the best quality care to their patients because of the high load of work and a very tough schedule (Buppert, 2017). The insufficient staff is also believed to lower nurses’ morale and cause a number of medical errors and complaints from the patients.
Thus, the main activities to assist the passage of the reviewed legislation and pay politicians’ attention to the problem of staff lack in the hospitals might include the active participation of the nurses in the studies and surveys relevant to the issue. Earlier this year, some protests against inadequate staffing were organized in several states. Thus, it might be done again to emphasize the attitude of health care professionals to the problem.
Although the attempts to pass the legislation to regulate the levels of nursing staff at certain health care providers have not been successful, the problem is still alive and needs some effective solutions. The government stands for the improvement of health care quality, and adequate staffing is a part of it. The reviewed bill included possible decisions that should be taken into account.
Buppert, C. (2017). What’s being done about nurse staffing? Medscape, 1(1), pp. 1-6.
S.1132 – Registered nurse safe staffing act of 2015. (2016). Web.
Spetz, J., Harless, D. W., Herrera, C. N., & Mark, B. A. (2013). Using minimum nurse staffing regulations to measure the relationship between nursing and hospital quality of care. Medical Care Research and Review, 70(4), 380-399.