Major new study projects thousands of lives could be saved with Safe Staffing at New York Hospitals

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NEW YORK –  A major new study of New York hospital safe staffing nurse-to-patient ratios was announced this week by researchers at the prestigious University of Pennsylvania, School of Nursing, Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research. Both lives and costs could be saved with safe staffing ratios at New York hospitals, researchers reported. “If NY state enacted the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act, our evidence projects many lives would be saved and shorter hospital stays would translate into cost-savings for hospitals,” they wrote.

Read the report here.

The study, in an article entitled “Is Hospital Nurse Staffing Legislation in the Public’s Interest?” looked at hospital patients from across all New York state regions and examined Medicare data for two years, 2017-2018. It invoked the safe staffing standard of 4 patients to 1 nurse (4:1) on adult medical and surgical units, as prescribed in the law currently before the NYS Legislature.

Estimates made use of data from Medicare patients with 1 of 5 common medical conditions or a common surgery. “If NY hospitals had staffed medical-surgical nurses at the 4:1 ratios as proposed in the current legislation, we project there would have been 4,370 fewer in-hospital deaths in the 2-year period among Medicare patients,” they concluded. Across all hospitals in the state, nurses care for on average 6.3 patients each, far above the 4 patient ratio proposed, said researchers. (In New York City, they added, that average is 6.9 patients each.) Hospital nurse staffing is significantly worse than the proposed standard, researchers noted.

On costs savings, the researchers found that “[with] these estimates are produced by only about 25% of the Medicare hospitalizations in NY, so the actual savings when applied to all inpatients—both Medicare and non-Medicare—would likely be many-fold higher,” researchers added.

“This is a win-win for patients on a grand scale,” said Pat Kane, RN, Executive Director of the New York State Nurses Association. “With nurses caring for 4 patients in the Med/Surg setting, as is appropriate according to peer-reviewed studies, lives would be saved. It’s that simple. It would also save billions of dollars, when practiced across hospital units. Patients receiving more RN care go home sooner and return to the hospital with much less frequency. We can no longer delay the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act.”

The Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research researchers have published hundreds of peer-reviewed research papers in the highest impact scientific journals in the world on outcomes of nurse staffing including evaluations of patient-to-nurse staffing policies enacted in California, the state of Queensland in Australia, and now in the state of New York.

Article co-author Professor Linda Aiken, RN, PhD, can be contacted at


The New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) represents more than 42,000 members in New York State. We are New York’s largest union and professional association for registered nurses. For more information, please visit


The New York State Nurses Association is a union of 42,000 frontline nurses united together for strength at work, our practice, safe staffing, and healthcare for all. We are New York's largest union and professional association for registered nurses.