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NPR highlights efforts to comply with California's new nurse safe staffing law

October 29, 2003 -- Today NPR ran a fairly good report by Patricia Neighmond about efforts by hospitals and staffing agencies to find the estimated thousands of new nurses hospitals will need to comply with California's safe staffing law, which goes into effect in January 2004.

The Center applauds NPR for covering the story.  The piece did arguably place too much emphasis on flashy one-time perks and high agency overtime rates that will likely do little to retain nurses long-term, and that may give listeners the impression that nursing is now a luxurious boondoggle. However, it also focused on a new Latino nurse who was able to get through nursing school more quickly and successfully with a large hospital grant, a good choice that simultaneously highlighted the benefits of drawing nurses from more diverse backgrounds and providing economic incentives that are likely to have a more far-reaching impact.

By talking to hospital officials but not nursing leaders, the story arguably presented a picture that was focused more on the difficulty hospitals are having in complying with the law, rather than the law's potential benefits.  Neighmond did note that nurses support the law because it will protect their patients, and she mentioned recent research showing that higher staffing reduces patient mortality.  She might have briefly explained why that is--i.e., what nurses do to save lives, and just how dangerous hospitals have become in the era of nurse short-staffing--an omission that is unfortunately common in press coverage of the shortage.

Listen to NPR's California Hospitals Scramble to Find Nurses.

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