Nurse-to-patient ratios are incredibly important in hospital settings. They ensure that each patient receives the care they need, and help nurses avoid preventable patient deaths by providing adequate, efficient treatment.
Arizona nurses have fought tenaciously to establish statewide ratios to protect the rights of nurses and improve working conditions at understaffed facilities, which can also harm patients. Currently, Arizona does not mandate these ratios, which continues to affect the conditions inside medical facilities within the state.
The Dangers of Understaffed Medical Facilities
Nurses provide crucial care to patients, ensuring that they receive around-the-clock care, take their medications, and, if a medical emergency arises, receive prompt care, among other duties. However, there is a widespread understaffing of nurses in the United States, which may increase the risk of harm to patients.
Without an adequate number of nurses on staff, the professionals on duty often have to make difficult decisions. Studies show that a higher nurse-to-patient ratio correlates with lower patient deaths, and that adding just one patient to a nurse’s workload increases the likelihood of a patient death in the facility by 7%.
If there is only one nurse on staff and five patients experiencing life-threatening emergencies, four out of five of those patients will not receive timely care at a given time. Mandated ratios help protect the rights of patients, as well as improve the environment nurses work in.
Does Arizona Have a Statewide Ratio?
Arizona does not have a statewide ratio, despite significant research proving the benefits of mandated nurse-to-patient numbers. Despite political opposition, nurses have pushed for mandatory reform to improve their working conditions for years.
The Arizona Patient Protection Act (APPA) was a piece of legislation that aimed to mandate nurse-to-patient ratios in Arizona hospitals and medical facilities. APPA also provided additional protections for nurses, allowing these professionals to uphold their duties and adhere to a strict code of ethics.
The ratios outlined in APPA included a 1:5 ratio in general medical and post-surgical units, a 1:4 ratio in pediatric wards, and a 1:4 ratio in emergency rooms. APPA would have mandated these nurse-to-patient ratios, as well as provided legal recognition of a nurse’s right to advocate for his or her patients over the economic interests of the hospital. Unfortunately, after lawmakers introduced this bill in 2008, it did not become law — leaving nurses without these mandated protections and putting patients at risk of preventable deaths.
Questions? Ask an Arizona Nursing Rights Lawyer
If you are a nurse who works in Arizona, you may witness difficult, often illegal violations of patients’ health and safety, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. While you may not have legal protections and mandated ratios under APPA, the Arizona Employment Protection Act (AEPA) does extend whistleblower protections to healthcare workers.
Your employer cannot retaliate against you for making a report to the Arizona Industrial Commission, or for reporting illegal activities you witness within the hospital. If you do lose your job or experience discrimination for taking these necessary actions, you deserve justice — and an Arizona nursing rights lawyer can help.
Your attorney will understand the complexities of Arizona whistleblower laws, including the provisions provided to healthcare professionals. Your lawyer can help you gather evidence, file a complaint against your employer, and seek justice. If you experience retaliation, gather all evidence related to your case and contact an attorney as soon as possible.