THURSDAY, April 18, 2019 (HealthDay News) — A New Jersey law requiring hospitals and nursing homes to publicly report the number of patients per nurse has led to better nurse staffing ratios, according to a study published online March 28 in Policy, Politics, & Nursing Practice.

Pamela B. de Cordova, Ph.D., R.N., from Rutgers, the State University School of Nursing, in Newark, New Jersey, and colleagues examined nurse staffing trends after the New Jersey legislature and governor enacted a law in 2005 mandating that all health care facilities compile, post, and report staffing information. Data from the State of New Jersey Department of Health were analyzed for 73 hospitals in 2008 to 2009 and 72 hospitals in 2010 to 2015. In addition, the authors created a longitudinal dataset of 13 inpatient units for each hospital (14,158 observations) and compared the data to American Hospital Association Annual Survey data.

The researchers found that the number of patients per RN decreased for 10 specialties, with a similar trend seen with the American Hospital Association data. The hospital specialties that demonstrated the greatest change in RN staffing (number of patients assigned decreased) included the neonatal intensive care unit, pediatrics, and the neonatal step-down unit. RN staffing improved for the medical-surgical specialty, with almost a 7 percent decrease in the number of patients assigned. Smaller decreases in the number of patients assigned were seen in adult closed psychiatric units, the newborn nursery, and adult step-down units.

“Although the number of patients does not account for patient acuity, the decrease in the patients per RN over seven years indicated the importance of public reporting in improving patient safety,” the authors write.

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