New York Gov. David Paterson has signed into law a bill that forces hospitals to publicly report nurse-patient staffing data along with information on patient outcomes.
Officials with the New York State Nurses Association said the data could someday lay the groundwork for a nurse-patient ratio staffing law similar to the one in California, which mandates hospitals maintain specific ratios of direct caregivers and patients.
New York nurses' union spokeswoman Nancy Webber said the state already has a law on the books requiring hospitals to provide “adequate” staffing to meet patient needs, but regulators allow hospital administrators to define what that term means.
Although researchers have studied how ratios affect patient outcomes in the state, their efforts have been frustrated by the disparate ways that information is reported, Webber said. Under the law that goes into effect in March 2010, state officials must develop uniform reporting standards on the number of licensed and unlicensed caregivers, the incidence of adverse patients' events, and the methods that hospitals use to determine their staffing levels.