New Jersey is likely to become the third state in the nation to limit the number of patients assigned to each nurse in a hospital setting. California has already enacted laws limiting nurse and patient ratios, and Massachusetts will be voting on whether to enact the law this fall. According to Health Professionals and Allied Employees, high patient-to-nurse ratios are the number one complaint from nurses working in a hospital setting.
A spokesperson for Health Professionals and Allied Employees stresses that the law does not stem from making the lives of nurses easier. The law will enable them to provide patients in the hospital with the level of care and attention they need and deserve. So often, short-staffing and a lack of nurses in the hospital requires those on duty to take care of a large number of patients at one time. This limits the quality of time they can spend with each patient and increases the risks of medical error.
New Jersey has experienced a shortage of hospital nurses in recent years. Much of this can be attributed to part-time workers and the number of nurses who have retired. The stresses and demands of the profession force some to work less than full time. Hospital nurses are also retiring earlier for the same reasons. The demands for more specialized care to more patients on their shifts leads to job burnout and a lower overall quality of patient care.
Reducing patient and nurse ratios will greatly increase the level of care for each patient. The quality of care and individual attention given to each patient can also reduce the overall amount of time they spend in the hospital.
Short-staffing can lead to medical errors, especially in medication administration, record keeping, and communication. When nurses are assigned a high number of patients, the risk of these errors increases. Medical malpractice can occur when patients are harmed by getting the wrong medications; too much or too little of a medication; or not getting the attention they need, and potentially suffering bed sores and falls.
As hospitals become larger networks, medical malpractice lawsuits can be more of a financial burden than hiring more nursing staff to reduce the ratio of patients assigned to them. Budget constraints typically drive the large number of patients assigned to hospital nurses. Legal mandates will force these conglomerates to provide funding to increase nursing staff.
Since California has passed the nurse patient ratio laws, the state has seen an increase in the number of new nurses entering the profession. The law has also helped reduce professional burnout and increased nurse retention.
The New Jersey medical malpractice lawyers at Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, LLP are dedicated to protecting victims of negligence. If you or someone you know has been a victim of medical malpractice, call us at 732-777-0100, or contact us online to schedule a consultation today. Our offices are located in Toms River, Edison, and Red Bank, and serve clients throughout New Jersey.