Staffing Changes Before and After Mandated Nurse-to-Patient Ratios in California’s Hospitals


Teresa Seratt, Charlene Harrington, Joanne Spetz, Mary Blegen

August 1, 2011

California is the first state to mandate specific nurse-to-patient ratios in general acute care hospitals. These ratios went into effect January 1, 2004 and apply "at all times". Little is known about the changes in staffing that occurred subsequent to the implementation of this legislation. This study identifies and describes changes in nurse and non-nursing staffing that may have occurred as a result of the enactment of these nurse-to-patient ratios. The results of this study indicate that most hospitals made upward adjustments in their RN and registry nurse staff but decreases in support staff and other non-nurse staff were not evident. These findings suggest that these mandated ratios had the desired effect of increasing the number of nurses caring for acutely ill patients.

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