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Home > Article Categories > Nursing Jobs > Florida Considers Safe Staffing Laws for Nurses

Florida Considers Safe Staffing Laws for Nurses

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The Florida Nurses Association and the Florida Legislature recently announced that the state is pursuing safe staffing laws. State congressmen have proposed bills mandating nursing ratios and limiting overtime requirements.

Florida House Bill 1117 and Senate Bill 1176 both refer to the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act. The bills were filed in early 2005 and have thus far reached the health committee. Both bills would ban mandatory overtime for nurses and the House Bill would set nurse-to-patient ratios in labor and delivery units (1:2), emergency departments (1:3), step-down units (1:3), and medical and surgical departments (1:4).

The bills follow examples set by other states, notably California which has already passed state-wide safe staffing laws. However Florida does not have the same general enthusiasm for the proposed legislation as California did, and Florida nurses are divided in their opinion of how such laws would affect healthcare. The Nurse Alliance of Florida, a labor union in south Florida, has come out in strong support of these safe staffing bills. The dangers of over-working and under-staffing employees has been demonstrated again and again. Groups have even published case studies done which show that even with the higher operational costs of increasing nursing staff, hospitals' profits do not decrease.

Those who object to these bills also have organizational support. The Florida Nurses Association (FNA) is one such group. Barbara Lumpkin, a registered nurse and the FNA associate executive director spoke out about the shortcomings of the safe staffing bills, remarking that while patient safety should be improved, there are better ways to achieve that goal than mandating nurse-to-patient ratios. ?First of all, it is a nursing judgment to decide what care patients need,? she noted. ?Second, ratios make all nurses the same. Every nurse, no matter how much experience or schooling she has, becomes a number. It?s demeaning to the profession, and when you put numbers on units, there?s no flexibility. It ties the hands of the nurses themselves.?

Despite the precedent in California, many are skeptical that these bills will be passed into law. Still, the Nurse Alliance has taken encouragement from the simple fact that these bills have made it so far in the system, namely to the health committee.

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