Assemblymember Cahill: Hospital Staffing Standards

March 15, 2004

Assemblymember Kevin Cahill (D-Ulster, Dutchess) announced the Assembly passed legislation, which he sponsored, requiring hospitals to prohibit staff members who are not registered nurses or licensed practical nurses from portraying themselves as "nurses," and disclosing staffing information in regard to registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and unlicensed staff (A.5591).

"When a person in a white lab coat comes into your hospital room, the assumption is that they are a qualified medical professional," Mr. Cahill said. "But because hospitals have been forced to cut costs, thatís not always the case. Many registered nurses are being replaced with unlicensed personnel and patients might not know how qualified the person is who is treating them."

Currently, unlicensed personnel are able to use the title "nurse," which often causes confusion. The Assemblymember noted that the bill would limit the use of the title "nurse" to only people legally authorized to practice nursing under the Nurse Practice Act.

The measure also requires hospitals to disclose nursing quality indicators such as:

  • the number of RNs and LPNs providing direct care and the ratio of patients to RNs;
  • the number of unlicensed personnel used to provide direct care;
  • patient injuries and medication errors caused by adverse patient care;
  • the methods used by hospitals to determine staffing levels; and
  • complaints filed with the state or federal regulatory agencies.

"The Assemblyís legislation will keep patients more informed about who is providing their care," Assemblymember Cahill said. "With more and more studies showing the important role RN to patient staffing ratios play in saving lives and preventing medical errors, it is crucial that hospitals provide this information to patients."