Illinois may require more nurses to treat fewer patients

BETTENDORF, Iowa  --  A bill, HB2604 Safe Patient Limits, has been introduced in the Illinois General Assembly.  It would require mandatory nurse staffing ratios in hospitals. This could help the nationwide nursing shortage.

"It would increase the number of staff that they need each shift," Eastern Iowa Community College Director of Nursing and nurse, Lori Haugen said.

The bill would limit the amount of patients a nurse could care for at each time, meaning more nurses would have to be on the floor. A union representing nurses is one of the groups pushing to pass the bill.

Depending on the floor and unit a nurse worked on, HB 2604 says no hospital nurse can have more than four patients at one time.

"It'll give them that opportunity to slow down, pay closer attention, make sure that things aren't being missed," Eastern Iowa Community College Associate Dean of Health Programs and nurse, Dawn Boettcher said.

Eastern Iowa Community College has more than 200 students in their nursing program. There is also a wait list to get in. Boettcher said the nationwide nursing shortage is not because students are not going into the profession, but because the age gap in the field.

"A lot of it has to do with the aging population, Boettcher said. "We have the baby boomers that are getting older and deciding to retire, therefore they are leaving the workforce. Some of those holes haven't been filled. We haven't gotten enough nurses out to fill those vacancies."

An Illinois hospital advocacy group, Illinois Health and Hospital Association, opposes the bill.

The bill would create more jobs for nurses, but cost hospitals more money.

"It would be having way too many nurses for the amount of care that's absolutely necessary," Boettcher said. "So, I might have 20 patients, I really could probably have six nurses take care of them, where with a bill like this, I would have to have 10 nurses on the floor."

If the new required ratio is violated, hospitals could be fined $25,000.

The bill will be heard in a house committee hearing on March 26th, 2019 in Springfield.

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