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Higher Nurse-To-Patient Ratios Reveal Mixed Result on Quality of Patient Care

In 2004, California legislation increased nurse-to-patient ratios in the state’s hospitals, providing a rare opportunity to examine how increasing nurse staffing affects patient care and hospital economics. A new study from the School of Nursing found that the mandate had mixed results on quality of care for patients. Barbara Mark, PhD., RN, FAAN, who is the Sarah Frances Russell Distinguished Professor at the School of Nursing, led the study, which appeared recently in Health Services Research, a bimonthly journal.

The new results on patient care add to her previous findings, which show that after the legislation, wages increased for nurses but hospital financial performance and charity care decreased in some California hospitals.

“There is a measurable cost to the increase in staffing,” said Mark. “Before implementing similar nurse staffing requirements elsewhere, more studies should examine the effects of minimum nurse staffing requirements on all aspects of patient care and whether staffing increases are worth the cost.”

To learn more about the study, see the full UNC press release here.