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Higher wages seen after nurse-staffing law enacted (DS)

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By Rebecca Vesely
Posted: February 10, 2009 – 1:00 pm EDT

Nurses in California’s metro areas saw their wages rise as much as 12 percentage points higher than nurses employed in other states after California became the first in the nation to require minimum nurse staffing ratios at acute-care hospitals, according to a study published in Health Affairs.

From 2000 to 2006, registered nurses in California saw their incomes rise by between 5 and 12 percentage points higher than their peers in other states, according to the study led by Barbara Mark, professor at the University of North Carolina School of Nursing.

California enacted the nurse staffing law in 1999 and regulations went into effect in 2004. By 2005, medical and surgical units were required to have a minimum of one nurse on the floor for every five patients. The ratios vary by department.

Mark and co-authors used data from four sources and excluded rural nurses from the analysis. “Our findings call into question the assumption by planners in California that the minimum-nurse-staffing regulations would not lead to unusually large wage increases for RNs, at least in the immediate post-implementation period,” Mark and her co-authors wrote.