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Does staffing affect on the job illness and injuries for nurses?

When most people hear that someone has been hurt while working it is likely assume that individual works in the field of construction or in an industrial setting. While it is of course true that workers are hurt (sometimes seriously) in these settings, they are not the only places where workplace injuries in the state of Pennsylvania occur. For example, in the field of health care workers, nurses can be hurt while working at hospitals.

One state has taken actions that appear to have had an impact on the number of job-related illnesses and injuries nurses suffered. Over the course of the last 10 years, the state of California has required that in acute care hospitals, specific nurse-to-patient staffing standards be in place. That is currently the only state in the nation to have such standards in place. Interestingly, the staffing ratio was initially put into place not for the safety of workers, but rather to try to keep patients safe. The specific ratios vary depending on the area the nurse works in, such as labor and delivery, surgery or pediatrics.

A study was conducted on the matter by the California Department of Public Health and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Using the "difference-in-differences" method the study compared occupational injury and illness rates for the years both before and after the law was implemented. They also looked at the rates of illness and injury rates in the state as compared to the remainder of the country.

The changes were as follows:

  • For registered nurses, an average yearly change to 120 injuries and illnesses per 10,000, down from 176 per 10,000.
  • For licensed practical nurses, an average yearly change to 161 injuries and illnesses per 10,000, down from 244 injuries per 10,000.

Based on the results of this study some might believe that the implementation of similar staffing ratios in states across the nation could lead to a reduction in the injuries and illnesses nurses in those states suffer while working as well. Whether this will happen remains to be seen.

Source: Infection Control Today, "Higher Nurse-to-Patient Standard Improves Staff Safety," Sept. 29, 2014

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