We focus on a number of topic areas identified by state health policy leaders as important to population health.
Keep up with news and updates from the Milbank Memorial Fund. Get the latest from thought leaders, including Christopher F. Koller, president of the Fund.
We publish The Milbank Quarterly, as well as reports, issues briefs, and case studies on topics important to population health.
The Center for Evidence-based Policy at Oregon Health & Science University is a national leader in evidence-based decision making and policy design.
The Milbank Memorial Fund is an endowed operating foundation that publishes The Milbank Quarterly, commissions projects, and convenes state health policy decision makers on issues they identify as important to population health.
March 2012 (Volume 90)
March 2012 | Matthew D. McHugh, Margo Brooks Carthon, Douglas M. Sloane, Evan Wu, Lesly Kelly, Linda H. Aiken
Context: California is the first and only state to implement a patient-to-nurse ratio mandate for hospitals. Increasing nurse staffing is an important organizational intervention for improving patient outcomes. Evidence suggests that staffing improved in California hospitals after the mandate was enacted, but the outcome for hospitals bearing a disproportionate share of uncompensated care—safety-net hospitals—remains unclear. One concern was that California’s mandate would burden safety-net hospitals without improving staffing or that hospitals would reduce their skill mix, that is, the proportion of registered nurses of all nursing staff. We examined the differential effect of California’s staffing mandate on safety-net and non-safety-net hospitals.
Methods: We used a time-series design with Annual Hospital Disclosure data files from the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) for the years 1998 to 2007 to assess differences in the effect of California’s mandate on staffing outcomes in safety-net and non-safety-net hospitals.
Findings: The mandate resulted in significant staffing improvements, on average nearly a full patient per nurse fewer (−0.98) for all California hospitals. The greatest effect was in those hospitals with the lowest staffing levels at the outset, both safety-net and non-safety-net hospitals, as the legislation intended. The mandate led to significantly improved staffing levels for safety-net hospitals, although there was a small but significant difference in the effect on staffing levels of safety-net and non-safety-net hospitals. Regarding skill mix, a marginally higher proportion of registered nurses was seen in non-safety-net hospitals following the mandate, while the skill mix remained essentially unchanged for safety-net hospitals. The difference between the two groups of hospitals was not significant.
Conclusions: California’s mandate improved staffing for all hospitals, including safety-net hospitals. Furthermore, improvement did not come at the cost of a reduced skill mix, as was feared. Alternative and more targeted designs, however, might yield further improvement for safety-net hospitals and reduce potential disparities in the staffing and skill mix of safety-net and non-safety-net hospitals.
Author(s): Matthew D. McHugh; Margo Brooks Carthon; Douglas M. Sloane; Evan Wu; Lesly Kelly; Linda H. Aiken
Keywords: safety net; nursing; nurse staffing; California; mandate
Read on Wiley Online Library
Read on JSTOR
Volume 90, Issue 1 (pages 160–186) DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-0009.2011.00658.x Published in 2012
Metropolitan Fragmentation and Health Disparities: Is There a Link?
What We Talk about When We Talk about Risk: Refining Surgery’s Hazards in Medical Thought
Get the Latest from the Milbank Memorial Fund