We were disappointed when we read the article, Mandating Nurse Staffing in Pennsylvania More Than a Numbers Game, written by Suzanne N. DeVandry and Jennifer Cooper in the November 2009 issue of JONA. In the article, it is stated "…only the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association (PSNA) has a posted position statement on nurse-staffing legislation." We do have a position statement on our Web site (panurseleaders.org), but given the date position paper was posted, it was most likely not available for author reference when DeVandry and Cooper wrote their article.
The Pennsylvania Organization of Nurse Leaders' (PONL's) position statement opposes mandatory nurse-staffing ratios. In the PONL position statement, nurses are urged to contact their state legislators and contest the adoption of House (HB 147) and Senate (SB 689 and SB 742) bills that would mandate staffing ratios. PONL is a strong advocate of evidence-based staffing decisions and rejected the original content of HB1033 that required the use of patient acuity systems. A recent survey conducted by the Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania found that less than 20% of Pennsylvania hospitals are currently using an acuity system. Equally important is the fact that 59% of the hospitals who are using an acuity system are not happy with it primarily because of validity and reliability issues and lack of credibility of the acuity systems with their nursing staff.
For several months, PONL has been providing feedback to our colleagues at PSNA to redraft HB 1033 and produce a bill that is flexible, effective and firmly grounded in evidence-based research. The PONL Practice Committee has been diligent in examining, questioning and offering suggestions which PSNA has used in crafting the final draft of HB 1033.
We hope that this new information will shed further light on staffing legislation issues and activity in Pennsylvania. I suggest that colleagues check their specific state nursing organization Web site for its statement on staffing legislation.
Marion Burns Tuck, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FACHE
PONL, representing the PONL