New Jersey’s largest nurses unions are trying to rally support to require nurse-patient ratios to be set at all Garden State hospitals.

According to Ann Twomey, the president of the Health Professionals and Allied Employees, the largest healthcare union in New Jersey, setting nurse-patient staffing levels will allow nurses to better care for patients.

She said in some hospitals nurse patient ratios are “spotty at best.”

Twomey pointed out in hospital emergency and recovery rooms and intensive care units there is a minimum nurse-to-patient ratio requirement, but not for other parts of hospitals.

“Every patient deserves to have a nurse be able to take care of them properly, and what we’re finding is the staffing levels in hospitals don’t allow for that. This is something we believe that every hospital should be behind.”

Aline Holmes, the senior vice president of clinical affairs at the New Jersey Hospital Association and a nurse for 50 years, doesn’t agree.

“Mandating nurse-to-patient ratios doesn’t take into account either the patient's needs or the experience and education and certifications of the nurses,” she said.

Holmes noted sometimes one-on-one nursing care is needed — for instance, if a patient is getting an invasive radiology procedure.

“You have to take into account what the patient needs are and then which nursing staff have the best expertise," she said. “There’s just absolutely no evidence that says any nursing ratio is better and associated with fewer outcomes.”

Others argue rigid nurse-patient ratios will increase costs with little or no benefit.

Twomey pointed out in states like California, where nurse-to-patient ratios have been in effect for years, “the outcome of that is patient care outcomes have improved, retention of nurses has increased and they have less difficulty recruiting nurses into positions.”

She said nurse-to-patient ratios is not a new issue, but it’s being raised again now because Gov. Phil Murphy has indicated he would sign such legislation into law.

She noted Health Professionals and Allied Employees union is part of the Coalition for Patient Rights and Safe Staffing in New Jersey, which includes eight other unions representing healthcare workers that also support requiring a nurse-to-patient ratio.

Legislation that would set ratios is being sponsored in Trenton by state Sen. Joe Vitale, D-Middlesex, and by Assemblyman Paul Moriarty, D-Gloucester, but it’s facing fierce resistance by lobbyists.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at

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