Op/Ed: Safe nursing staffing rules save lives

Pin It

By Leah Cosgrove, Special to The Times

Leah Cosgrove

Today, nurses are burnt out and at their limit. There are no mandated staffing ratios in Pennsylvania. Our nurses are being spread dangerously thin in taking care of too many patients. Implementation of mandated staffing ratios will create safer patient care and happier nurses.

Imagine that you’re a barista with a line of customers. One is allergic to milk and screaming that they need a new coffee made with oatmilk. One spilled a hot coffee all over their skin. The customer behind them is about to slip and fall in the puddle. One is no where to be found, in the bathroom maybe? One is choking on the floor turning blue. Oh, and it’s change of shift so your coworker is leaving. You’re picking up their customers too. For a nurse, these are not coffee orders. They are patients’ lives.

Nurses are responsible for taking care of too many patients. Sadly, this is not a new problem. Hospitals are understaffed at the expense of both nurses and patients. Nurses experience burnout and job dissatisfaction. Staff turnover is high. Patients are at an increased risk for pneumonia, falls, medication errors, and even death.

The Patient Safety Act is comprised of Senate Bill 240 and House Bill 106. One facet of the Patient Safety Act is to limit the number of patients per nurse. The ratios vary for different units, such as emergency room, ICU, labor and delivery, et cetera. This ensures that nurses have adequate time and resources to care for specific patients.

On paper, it may seem that running a unit with less nurses would save money. But when a hospital is short staffed, costly mistakes happen. Patients and nurses get hurt. Some may argue that it’s up to the hospital to create their own staffing ratios. They may say it’s the hospitals’ responsibility, not the legislators. But hospitals need to be held accountable and kept in check. In California, laws mandating nurse-to-patient ratios have been in place since 2004. And the impact is astounding. Nurse job satisfaction is higher. Hospital length of stay is shorter. Patient mortality is lower (Dierkes et al., 2022). So results are happier nurses, family members home sooner, and less death in the hospital.

Want to do something in PA? Join the the conversation on social media with #safepatientlimits.

Write your local politician to encourage support of SB 240 and HB 106. Election season is here. Research your politicians. PA senator Maria Collett and PA State Representative Tom Mehaffie are fighting for nurses as prime sponsors of HB 106. Senator and governor candidate Josh Shapiro supports nurses by co-sponsoring the Patient Safety Act. PA senator and governor candidate Doug Mastriano voted against staffing transparency provision. He has not co-sponsored the Patient Safety Act.

Refer to the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association website, PSNA.org/patientsafety for more information on how you can help be a part of the solution. This is not just a problem for nurses. Nurses keep our family members safe, so we need to fight to help nurses feel safe.


Dierkes A, Do D, Morin H, Rochman M, Sloane D, McHugh M. The impact of California’s staffing mandate and the economic recession on registered nurse staffing levels: A longitudinal analysis. Nurs Outlook. 2022 Mar-Apr;70(2):219-227. doi: 10.1016/j.outlook.2021.09.007. Epub 2021 Dec 16. PMID: 34920888; PMCID: PMC9007864.


Leah Cosgrove is a nurse and lives in Glen Mills.

Share this post:

Leave a Comment