Experts recommend minimum nurse staffing standards for nursing facilities in the United States

Charlene Harrington, Christine Kovner, Mathy Mezey, Jeanie Kayser-Jones, Sarah Burger, Martha Mohler, Robert Burke, David Zimmerman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Abstract

The experts concluded that current data show that the average nurse staffing levels (for RNs, LVN/LPNs, and NAs) in nursing homes are too low in some facilities to provide high quality of care. Caregiving, the central feature of a nursing home, needs to be improved to ensure high quality of care to residents. Because detailed time studies have not been conducted on the amount of time that is required to provide high quality of care to residents, expert opinion is currently the best approach to addressing the problem of inadequate staffing. Increases in the education level and training of nursing staff are also strongly recommended as a step to improving quality of care and reducing turnover rates in nursing homes. These recommendations are designed for consideration by Congress, HCFA regulators, policymakers, nursing home administrators, and nurses. Ideally, Congress would pass legislation establishing these recommendations as minimum standards for all nursing homes or direct HCFA to establish detailed minimum nurse staffing standards to ensure that staffing levels take into account the number and the case-mix of the residents. Alternatively, HCFA could introduce minimum staffing standards through the regulatory process. In 1999 there were a number of efforts at the state level to increase minimum staffing levels. Mohler (1999) surveyed selected states and found that 21 states had either proposed new legislation or were considering proposals for new legislation or new regulations. In California, for example, in 1999 the state budget approved $31 million in new state funds (to be matched with $31 million in federal Medicaid dollars) to increase nursing home staffing minimum requirements from 2.8 to 3.2 hr per resident day and to increase wage rates. Overall, nursing facilities need to be held accountable by HCFA for providing adequate levels and types of staffing to meet the needs of their residents, especially because government is paying for 61% of the expenditures. Adopting these minimum standards will have an important impact on improving the quality of the nation's nursing home care. Additional research is needed to determine appropriate levels and types of staff to provide high quality of care to residents. These studies could test the proposed staffing standards against existing staffing levels to examine the impacts on quality. As new data become available on staffing levels, revisions of staffing standards should be made if necessary to ensure that high standards are maintained.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-16
Number of pages12
JournalGerontologist
Volume40
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2000

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology

Cite this

Harrington, C., Kovner, C., Mezey, M., Kayser-Jones, J., Burger, S., Mohler, M., Burke, R., & Zimmerman, D. (2000). Experts recommend minimum nurse staffing standards for nursing facilities in the United States. Gerontologist, 40(1), 5-16. https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/40.1.5