Miami Valley nurses help pass bill regulating number of patients nurses can have at once

A new bill has been introduced to regulate the number of patients Ohio nurses can care for at one time. (WKEF/WRGT)

OHIO (WKEF/WRGT) - A new bill has been introduced to regulate the number of patients Ohio nurses can care for at one time.

Senate Bill 55 (Skindell, D) for safe staffing had it's first hearing Tuesday, March 21, and nurses from the Miami Valley were involved in helping push them through.

"People are dying without the proper care in hospitals," said Rhonda Risner, RN at the Dayton VA hospital.

Risner and Yvonne Curington are both with National Nurses United, the national union backing SB 55.

They both told Fox 45 that their fight is not about their workload, but about patient safety.

"At this given time in the state of Ohio there is absolutely no limit to the amount of patients that a registered nurse can care for," said Risner.

The bill would create mandatory patient to nurse ratios.

On medical and surgical hospital floors, the ratio would be 1-4 patients per nurse.

On pediatric and emergency floors, 1-3 patients per nurse.

For trauma cases and critical newborns, one patient to one nurse.

Risner said she sometimes sees 7, 8, or 9 patients at a time currently.

"It's long overdue because I remember when I first started in nursing there would be one nurse for the whole floor," said Curington.

Currently, California is the only state with mandatory nurse/patient ratios.

"It's according to how many nurses actually show up to work, how many nurses are scheduled to work, if you have a sick call you might have to double up your patients take extra patients," Risner said about current working conditions.

Fox 45 reached out to the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association (GDAHA), who said they have not taken an official position, but that it's hard to manage staff ratios because every hospital is different.

The Ohio Nurses Association told Fox 45 they are less worries about nurse ratios, and more worried about mandatory overtime for nurses >

"When legislation like this is introduced across the country the other side comes out in force to try to fight us," said Risner.

The bill also includes a whistle blower protection, so nurses could speak out about enforcement without fear of being fired.

"Patients’ lives will be saved and nurses will be much happier and will stay at the bedside, we have a high turnover," said Curington.

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