NJ considers putting nurses in charge of staffing levels
A bill recently introduced by Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz would require health care facilities to establish committees of nurses to set nurse staffing levels at New Jersey hospitals and health care facilities.
Judi Schmidt, CEO of the New Jersey Nurses Association, says she agrees with the bill.
"I think what we need to do is a more focus on having the individual nurses having more input into what the appropriate staffing should be for those units that nurses are working on," Schmidt said.
"Doctors, nurses — they're the ones that know what type of staff needs to be. So I think having the nurses comprising the majority of the membership on a staffing committee is an excellent idea."
Munoz, a Republican from Union County, is also a licensed nurse.
Her legislation allows the committees to consider nurse experience, facility technology and the physical structure of the nursing unit. Schmidt says that's important because staffing isn't just "a numbers game."
"We need to take into consideration other workplace variables that affect the staffing levels for individual nursing units," she said. "Some units are very old. They have their supply rooms on the very end of the nursing unit. So the nurses are running back and forth to get supplies."
But not everyone is on board with the idea of a committee with a majority of nurses as members calling the shots for staffing. NJSpotlight.com reports that New Jersey hospital officials and some nurses in management feel a state mandate like this would impair a hospital's ability to respond to changing patient needs. And there are concerns about the cost of hiring more staff with New Jersey's nurse labor pool already somewhat shallow.
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