Nurse/patient ratios under the spotlight at GNU

Reports from the GNU meeting by NZNO president Grant Brookes

Campaigns for minimum, mandated nurse-to-patient ratios were a key focus at July’s Global Nurses United meeting. 

Encouraging progress was reported in Canadian provinces and in central and eastern parts of the United States. 

California Nurses Association president Malinda Markowitz, who also conveyed a message on behalf of the Queensland Nurses and Midwives Union, explained that California is currently the only American state with legislated staffing ratios in its hospitals. 

“These vary by unit from 1:2 in ICU to 1:5 in med/surg wards. Violations are subject to civil penalties. 

“The ratio is the minimum. There must be improved staffing based on patient acuity. 

“The road to victory wasn’t easy”, she said. “Nurses organised rallies, protests and flexed their political muscle. One of the largest studies on nurse:patient ratios found that if the California law was implemented nationally, it would literally save tens of thousands of lives.”

In 2016 Queensland became the second Australian state after Victoria to implement ratios. “An exciting study by researchers at Queensland University of Technology confirms what nurses know to be true – more nurses save lives, save money and improve the work life of nurses. 

“These victories add fuel to the fire in the global fight for safe staffing. Nurses united will never be defeated,” Markowitz said. 

First published in Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand, September 2019. Reposted with permission. 

Related coverage:

‘Building global ties’

‘Providing maternal and child care with scarce resources’

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