Massachusetts adopts nurse staffing mandates for ICUs

Hospital group, nurse union both support new rule

New regulations in Massachusetts will require that ICU nurses be responsible for no more than two patients.

The state's Health Policy Commission says the new rules will apply to all ICUs, including specialty units for burn patients and premature babies. The commission drafted the rules to comply with a law passed last June.

The Massachusetts Nurses Association had called for staffing ratios that would limit ICU nurses to one patient. However, the group says it is pleased with the final rules because they also covered specialty ICU units.

Vonderhaar: Nurse staffing is about more than just numbers

Timothy Gens, executive vice president of the Massachusetts Hospital Association, says the group is also pleased with the regulations. "Overall, the commission found a thoughtful, patient- focused balance," he said.

David Seltz, executive director of the commission, says the panel wanted to be fair to the interests of hospitals—which typically prefer more flexibility in staffing—while still putting patients first. "The proposed regulation I believe accomplishes these goals," he says (McCluskey, Boston Globe, 6/10; Metzger, State House News Service/WBUR, 6/10; AP/Washington Times, 6/10).

The takeaway: New regulations in Massachusetts require that ICU nurses be responsible for no more than two patients and will apply to all specialty ICUs.

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