Nurses set aside goal on hospital staffing

Minnesota nurses have agreed to relinquish a legislative goal to establish mandated staffing levels in hospitals.

The Minnesota Nurses Association and hospitals reached a compromise on Friday that would direct the state Department of Health to study the correlation between staffing levels and patient outcomes. It would mean the hospitals' first public disclosure of staffing levels.

Nurses association first vice president Bernadine Engeldorf said the union made the compromise so the two sides could work toward increased patient safety.

"We still have a strong belief that it won't hurt to establish some standards," Engeldorf said. "But if that's not where both parties are at this time, it's better that we step back and look at a fundamental foundation where we can move forward."

A spokeswoman for the hospitals, Wendy Burt, said the agreement is a starting point and the legislation is a work in progress.

"We can do the reporting and the transparency -- that's based on plans that hospitals already have -- that they're already executing when they staff," Burt said. "So that isn't developing anything new. Hospitals may do it differently, from hospital to hospital, but they do staffing plans. So reporting that is just the next step in that."

Lawmakers have yet to work out details on how the Health Department will conduct the study. A Senate committee will take up the proposal next week.

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