Both chambers of the Massachusetts Legislature unanimously approved a bill last week that would require every patient in a licensed intensive-care bed to have at least one nurse caring for them, unless a nurse decides to take on two patients because one is less acutely ill. Staffing in Massachusetts ICUs could never drop below one nurse for every two patients.
Massachusetts law would set nursing staffing ratios in ICU
“That really allows nurses to define the care that each and every patient needs,”
said Jeanette Ives Erickson, chief nurse and senior vice president for patient care at 947-bed Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
Gov. Deval Patrick is expected to sign the union-backed bill. Union officials say if he signs it by July 2 they'll drop two ballot initiatives, including one calling for hospitalwide ratios.
But that remains the ultimate goal of the Massachusetts Nurses Association/National Nurses United. “You shouldn't be running a hospital if you don't have money to run a hospital, and they do have the money,” said Jean Ross, NNU co-president and a Minnesota nurse.
A number of nurse-staffing bills are pending around the country, including in Minnesota and Washington, D.C., as well as twin federal bills in the U.S. House
and Senate. California is the only state with a nurse-staffing law that applies throughout a hospital.
Massachusetts hospital leaders will continue to oppose broader staffing requirements, said Tim Gens, executive vice president of the Massachusetts Hospital Association. “A fixed formula that treats all the patients the same is not fair to the patient and not fair to the caregiving team,” he said.
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