California Bypasses Nurse Staffing Ratio Rules Amid Virus Surge

January 15, 2021 by Christen Aldrich

Filed under COVID-19 for Employers, COVID-19 for the Workforce, Engagement & Morale, Regulations

Last modified January 18, 2021

According to this article from Modern Healthcare, numerous nurses who are already stretched thin are now caring for more patients than typically allowed under state law, after the state began issuing waivers that allow hospitals to temporarily bypass a strict nurse-to-patient ratios law. Nurses say this move is pushing them to the brink of burnout and affecting patient care.

California is the only state in the country to require by law specific number of nurses to patients in every hospital unit. The law requires hospitals to provide one nurse for every two patients in intensive care, and one nurse for every four patients in emergency rooms. Nurses claim these ratios have helped reduce errors and protect the safety of patients and nurses.

Nurses overwhelmed with patients because of the pandemic in other states are demanding law-mandated ratios. So far, they have failed to get them. In Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and New York, the country’s first coronavirus hotspot, nurses have been demanding state-mandated minimum staffing standards for months.

“We are literally in the worst crisis of this pandemic so far and are seeing caseloads that we have not seen to date,” said Jan Emerson-Shea, California Hospital Association spokeswoman. She added that hospitals are just trying to get through the crisis. “No one wants to have our staff emotionally and physically exhausted. But we have no choice. People need care.”

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