April 21, 2010 — A law passed in California in 2004 limiting the number of patients that can be assigned to a nurse has contributed to lower mortality rates among general surgery patients and increased job satisfaction among the state's nurses, according to the first comprehensive evaluation of the legislation, published online April 9 in Health Services Research.
The California law, the first in the nation, specifies that nurses may care for no more than
- 5 patients in a medical-surgical unit,
- 4 pediatric patients,
- 2 intensive care patients,
- 6 psychiatric patients, or
- 3 patients in labor and delivery.