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Garcia Introduces Bill to Establish Nurse-to-Patient Ratios in New Jersey Hospitals

Legislation Proposed to Ensure Proper Staffing and More Efficient Care

(TRENTON) – Assemblyman Carmelo Garcia (D-Hudson) has introduced legislation that would help to ensure quality, efficient patient care by mandating all New Jersey Hospitals to maintain an appropriate ratio of nurses to patients in daily operations.

The bill would require the Commissioner of Health to establish minimum nurse-to-patient ratios for all hospitals operating in the State, by hospital unit, with which each hospital would be required to comply.

“Setting minimum nurse to patient ratios establishes a baseline focusing on patient outcomes and helps to ensure quality, efficient care in New Jersey’s hospitals,” Garcia said. “Besides the fact that our facilities must be prepared to handle any crisis that may arrive on any given day, we want to make sure that enough staff is on hand to tend to patients’ needs.”

The commissioner would be authorized to impose minimum staffing requirements that differ by hospital unit or by licensed nurse classification, as determined to be appropriate. Under the bill, the commissioner would be prohibited from exempting any particular hospital unit from compliance with minimum staffing requirements.

The measure provides adequate flexibility to hospitals in rural communities, and teaching hospitals which serves a dual purpose as an education institution. Specifically, the commissioner would also be required to consult the Board of Nursing in establishing minimum ratios for teaching hospitals, so as to ensure that minimum staffing standards are consistent with approved nursing education and clinical experience.

“A required nurse-to-patient ratio also would support hospital staff,” Garcia said. “An inappropriate patient load for a nurse can be overwhelming and may have an effect on the quality of care. This legislation helps to set a standard, protect patients and support quality healthcare in hospitals.”

The nurse-to-patient ratios established by the commissioner would represent the minimum number of licensed nurses that must be allocated to a particular hospital unit at all times during the hospital’s operation, and hospital administrators would be required to allocate additional nursing staff to a hospital unit, above and beyond the minimum, when such additional allocation is determined to be appropriate and necessary for the improvement or proper facilitation of patient care.

Every two years, the Department of health would be required to review the minimum staffing requirements, revise and update the established ratios if such revisions are determined to be necessary to ensure that staffing requirements accurately reflect the realities of hospital nursing care and continue to provide for sufficient minimum nursing coverage in hospital settings.