Ohio Bill Seeking Safety Limits on Number of Patients Assigned to RNs Gets First Hearing
Proposed Law Would Also Set Whistleblower Protection for Nurses
On Tues. March 21, S.B. 55, the Ohio Patient Protection Act—a bill by National Nurses Organizing Committee-Ohio/National Nurses United (NNOC/NNU) which sets specific limits on how many patients Ohio nurses can care for at once—will get its first hearing, with testimony by sponsor Senator Michael Skindell.
“Ohioans may not realize that there’s currently no limit to the number of patients Ohio nurses can be assigned at one time, although studies clearly show that safe nurse-to-patient staffing ratios save lives,” said Michelle Canfora, RN, of Affinity Medical Center in Massillon, Ohio. “Without mandatory regulations, hospital corporations are free to staff at bare bones levels, but nurses are standing up to say that saving money on staffing cannot be more important than saving patients’ lives. We applaud Senator Skindell for moving this critical issue forward because it’s a public safety issue.”â€¨
The Ohio Patient Protection Act establishes minimum nurse-to-patient ratios for every hospital unit at all times. It also provides whistleblower protection to assure that nurses are free to speak out for enforcement of safe staffing standards. Skindell is joined on his bill, initially, by co-sponsor Senator Sandra Williams.â€¨
What: Hearing for S.B. 55, The Ohio Patient Protection Act
Where: Ohio Statehouse, 1 Capital Square, Columbus, OH 43215
When: Tuesday, March. 21, 3:15 p.m.
The bill is modeled on a California law that studies have documented has saved patient lives, improved the quality of care in multiple other ways, and reduced nurse burnout, keeping the most experienced RNs at the patient bedside.â€¨
“These policies will help ensure that patients get the best medical care based on need and will provide nurses with safeguards to ensure that they are protected from retaliation for whistleblowing and refusals to follow potential violations of the law,” said Senator Skindell. “Genuine and enforceable safe-staffing standards will save money and lives by ensuring that patients obtain excellent nursing care.”â€¨
“As nurses, it is our duty to protect our patients from harm, and that’s why we are urging Ohio senators to stand with us in supporting S.B. 55,” said Debra McKinney, RN, of Affinity Medical Center. “It’s not an overstatement to say this bill impacts the safety of every resident of Ohio—including the senators themselves—because we are all potential hospital patients at some time in our lives. Nurses need a mandatory, non-negotiable limit to our patient load so that we can provide the kind of focused care all patients deserve, and so that we can avoid burnout and stay healthy ourselves.”â€¨
Decades of studies document link between improved RN staffing and safer care:
A 2016 study (Aiken et. al) found that with each 10 percentage point reduction in the proportion of professional nurses, there was an 11 percent increase in the odds of patient death. â€¨
A 2015 study in the Journal of Advanced Nursing also found that preventing understaffing was critical in improving the quality of care for hospitalized patients—highlighting the cost savings of safe staffing to the hospital, patients and the community, given that adverse events were estimated to increase costs by $8000 per admission and lengthen the stay by seven to eight days on average.â€¨
And California hospitals, which have had safe staffing laws in place since January, 2004 have shown that limiting the number of patients assigned to nurses saves lives. A 2013 study in the International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health showed that the California safe staffing law was associated with 55.57 fewer occupational injuries and illnesses per 10,000 RNs per year, a value 31.6 % lower than the expected rate without the law.â€¨
National Nurses Organizing Committee-Ohio is part of National Nurses United, the largest union of registered nurses in the country, representing over 150,000 RNs nationwide.