Safe Staffing Legislation

Safe Staffing Legislation

Provided by NATHO Member, Medical Solutions

It is common knowledge within the healthcare industry that poor nurse to patient ratios have been linked with higher mortality and readmission rates — not to mention higher instances of nurse burnout. But the chorus of voices suggesting that safe staffing be addressed through legislation continues to grow.

With a looming nursing shortage, many states and the District of Colombia are currently considering (or will consider this year) safe staffing legislation that would compel facilities to staff specific numbers of nurses, particularly at peak admission times.

While safe staffing ratios are a no-brainer, opinions are divided as to whether or not safe staffing legislation is a good move. 

In some states, nurses groups have rallied for safe staffing legislation, arguing it would be positive for patients and staff alike — protecting patient care and guarding against nurse burnout. Meanwhile, many hospitals have expressed worry about their ability to finance increased staffing levels or that in some cases it would further stretch already overextended staff pools, as well as limiting each facility’s autonomy and decision-making ability.      

“Hospitals should take notice because when budgets are tight, cutting back on nurses is often the first step but one that can have disastrous consequences for patients,” Linda H. Aiken, Professor of Nursing and Sociology, and Director of the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research at the University of Pennsylvania told Science Daily in February 2014.

But is safe staffing legislation necessary? Or can facilities properly execute safe staffing levels independent of such legislation?

It’s hard to say, but one thing is certain: Whether through legislation or attention to responsibility amongst facilities, safe staffing levels are definitely a hot topic right now.  

Sarah Wengert is a writer for Medical Solutions, the nation’s third-largest travel nurse staffing company, and Travel Nursing Blogs. Learn more at