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Nurse-to-patient ratio law improves staff safety: study

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Sacramento, CA – Occupational injuries among nurses in California decreased by one-third after a 2004 state law implemented nurse-to-patient staffing ratios in acute care hospitals, according to a new study from the University of California, Davis.

Researchers examined workplace illness and injury rates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics before and after the law went into effect. They found that injuries and illnesses among registered nurses declined 32 percent to 120 per 10,000 workers, while licensed practical nurses experienced a 34 decent decrease – to 161 from 244 per 10,000 workers.

Lead study author J. Paul Leigh, a professor of public health sciences at UC Davis, speculated in a press release that the staffing ratios may lead to fewer shoulder and back injuries stemming from moving patients in bed, as well as fewer needlesticks resulting from time pressure.

California is the only state that has authorized minimum nurse-to-patient staffing ratios. Ratios vary by unit and are flexible during health care emergencies.

The study was published online Sept. 13 in the International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health.