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Capps Introduces Legislation to Improve Patient Care

The bill would require facilities to work with nurses to ensure proper staffing levels

Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, and Rep. Steven LaTourette, R-Ohio, on Wednesday announced the introduction of legislation that would improve patient care and support nurses in health-care facilities.

The Registered Nurse Safe Staffing Act of 2010 (House Resolution 5527) would require health-care facilities to work with nursing staff to implement a system that ensures appropriate nurse staffing levels are present to promote quality patient care.

The legislation complements an unprecedented $250 million investment in health-care reform legislation to increase and improve the primary-care work force, including nurses, so that enough nurses are in the work force to achieve safe staffing levels.

“For the sake of our patients, we have to do a better job of ensuring there are enough nurses on staff to provide quality patient care,” said Capps, a nurse and vice chairwoman of the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee. “It comes as no surprise that there is an increased chance of medical errors if nurses are strained beyond capacity and forced to care for too many patients.

“Nurse staffing practices that promote a safe and healthy work environment are a key element in improving patient outcomes. This legislation builds on the critical investments made in health-care reform to educate and train more nurses by encouraging nurses and hospitals to work together to make sure the right number of nurses are there to provide the highest quality of care that each and every patient deserves.”

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in May 2002 found that higher levels of nursing care correlate with better patient care and outcomes in hospitals.  Another study in 2002 by the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organization found that nearly one-quarter of all unanticipated events that result in death, injury or permanent loss of function result from inadequate nurse staffing levels. And research published in the Oct. 23, 2002, Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that a patient’s overall risk of death rose about 7 percent for each additional patient above four on a nurse’s workload.

Appropriate staffing is a top concern of nurses and is critical to the delivery of quality patient care. Proper staffing levels allow nurses the time they need to make patient assessments, complete nursing tasks, respond to health care emergencies, and provide the level of care that their patients deserve. Proper staffing levels also increase nurse satisfaction and reduce staff turnover, an important priority given today’s nursing shortage.

— Ashley Schapitl is the press secretary for Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara.


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