Nurse staffing ratios: why now?

As nurses, our fight to improve patient safety and staffing levels is ongoing.   But now is a pivotal moment in hospital reimbursements and it’s up to us to make sure that pivot benefits patients the way it’s meant to.

Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Medicare reimbursements are shifting from pay-for-care to pay-for-quality.  Hospitals will be scored on quality measures and compared to other hospitals.   There are thousands of new scorecard measures, including:

  • How quickly heart attack patients receive surgery on arteries
  • How often surgery patients receive the right treatment at the right time to prevent blood clots
  • How often patients with heart failure get discharge instructions they need to care for themselves
  • How satisfied are patients with their care at the hospital

In 2013 hospital payments will be reduced if they have excess 30-day readmissions for patients with heart attacks, heart failure and pneumonia; in 2015 hospitals with high rates of certain hospital acquired conditions will receive further payment reductions.

What that means is hospitals now have a financial imperative to improve quality, and it’s critical that we use our voices as nurses to make sure the quality improvements they make result in real, better outcomes for patients.

We know and studies show that the best way to improve quality outcomes is to increase staffing.

By moving forward to create guaranteed, enforceable staffing standards now, we’re ensuring that staffing improvements are part of the quality improvements.   We can’t miss this opportunity to make sure that changes benefit our patients.

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