Although California recently adopted a state law that sets a minimum nurse-to-patient ratio in all state hospitals, efforts to mandate Nevada hospitals failed during the 1999 legislature.
Nurses have argued that in recent years the number of nurses who work any given shift is more often than not determined by budget needs rather than "acuity" needs.
Acuity level is how hospitals measure how much care patients need, taking into account the type of illness and how closely medicine and monitoring equipment must be watched.
"The acuity level is much too high for the amount of patients," said a nurse from Carson-Tahoe Hospital. "We're concerned that our patients receive the highest quality of care possible. The patient has to pay for certain services and we feel we should be able to provide those services without worrying about department budgets."
Cynthia Bunch, state and federal legislative coordinator for the Nevada Nurses association, said revised state Board of Health regulations that took effect Sept. 10 may have the same impact as the proposed regulation.
The acuity level of patients will be determined by registered nurses in each hospital, according to the new regulation, and the number of nurses who will be on duty on any given shift will be based on patient needs.
Bunch said the nurse-patient ratio staffing has been identified by the American Nurses Association as "the primary crisis facing the profession."