Report: shed light on hospital staffing levels

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A recent statewide report suggests Pennsylvania residents should be able to scrutinize hospitals’ nurse staffing levels.

Researchers consider nurse-to-patient ratios one of the best indicators of the quality of medical care. Having more nurses on hand for each patient in a hospital unit is considered better for patients’ health outcomes. But the data picture of staffing levels in Pennsylvania is fuzzy. Recent surveys don’t even tie staffing data to specific facilities.

A June report by the Joint State Government Commission says lawmakers should consider making hospitals report how many nurses are on shift for each patient. That way, potential patients could make informed decisions about where they’d like to receive care.

Five other states do this to some degree, according to the JSGC’s study. In New Jersey, hospitals have to report their nurse staffing levels four times a year.

The panel also recommends that Pennsylvania nurses receive whistleblower protections. Right now, state law doesn’t protect nurses who risk their jobs when they voice a grievance at work about things like staffing levels and nursing assignments. Efforts to extend whistleblower protections to nurses in Pennsylvania go back more than a decade.