The Impact of Oregon’s New Staffing Legislation

In July, 2015, the governor of Oregon signed Oregon Senate Bill 469, creating updated guidelines regarding hospital nurse staffing. The new Oregon law is focused three main areas:

  • Increases the authority of nurse staffing committees
  • Provides more structure regarding how staffing plans must be developed
  • Sets limits on mandatory overtime

Let’s take a closer look at each of these individually.

First, under the new law, staffing committees comprised of 50% nurse managers and 50% direct-care nurses will develop a staffing plan that must be implemented by 2017. The law establishes that each hospital specialty must be represented, and that where the staffing plans impact non-RN direct care staff, those staff members must also be represented.

Second, the staffing plan must be based on a 24-hour census and take into account the needs of the patients, including differences in patient acuity and the total diagnoses present on the unit; the skill mix and competency of the staff; the unit admissions/discharges/transfers; and the need for non-direct care tasks, including meals and rest breaks. Further, plans cannot rely solely on external benchmarking metrics.

Third, the law impacts mandatory overtime. Staff cannot work beyond their prearranged, agreed upon shift.  There must also be a 10-hour rest period after a nurse works 12 hours in a 24-hour period. These rules apply in nearly every situation, with limited exceptions where patient care would be compromised if the staff member left or for national/state emergencies.

Successful compliance with the new legislation hinges on the ability of the staffing committee to create a solid staffing plan and the ability of the organization to monitor and manage overtime. That can be a tall order with so many complex, dynamic variables impacting scheduling and staffing. Automation can help. However, a recent Becker’s Healthcare survey of 95 healthcare executives showed that the majority of hospitals are not yet leveraging automation in the very areas that the Oregon law says must monitored, managed and accounted for in the staffing plans1:

oregon-law-v3

Going forward, whether mandated by legislation or not, hospitals across the country will need to harness workforce and staffing analytics to staff better and staff smarter. In order to do that, their approach to workforce management will increase in sophistication, enabling hospital executives, nurse managers and direct-care staff to access and use the information they need to improve care, empower staff and manage the bottom line.

1Becker’s Healthcare survey “Aligning Organizational Goals with Workforce Management Initiatives” conducted May/June, 2015.

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