Health and Safety Code – HSC § 1276.4

(a) By January 1, 2002, the State Department of Public Health shall adopt regulations that establish minimum, specific, and numerical licensed nurse-to-patient ratios by licensed nurse classification and by hospital unit for all health facilities licensed pursuant to subdivision (a) (b) , or (f) of Section 1250 .  The State Department of Public Health shall adopt these regulations in accordance with the department’s licensing and certification regulations as stated in Sections 70053.2 70215 , and 70217 of Title 22 of the California Code of Regulations , and the professional and vocational regulations in Section 1443.5 of Title 16 of the California Code of Regulations .  The department shall review these regulations five years after adoption and shall report to the Legislature regarding any proposed changes.  Flexibility shall be considered by the department for rural general acute care hospitals in response to their special needs.  As used in this subdivision, “hospital unit” means a critical care unit, burn unit, labor and delivery room, postanesthesia service area, emergency department, operating room, pediatric unit, step-down/intermediate care unit, specialty care unit, telemetry unit, general medical care unit, subacute care unit, and transitional inpatient care unit.  The regulation addressing the emergency department shall distinguish between regularly scheduled core staff licensed nurses and additional licensed nurses required to care for critical care patients in the emergency department.

(b) These ratios shall constitute the minimum number of registered and licensed nurses that shall be allocated.  Additional staff shall be assigned in accordance with a documented patient classification system for determining nursing care requirements, including the severity of the illness, the need for specialized equipment and technology, the complexity of clinical judgment needed to design, implement, and evaluate the patient care plan and the ability for self-care, and the licensure of the personnel required for care.

(c) “Critical care unit” as used in this section means a unit that is established to safeguard and protect patients whose severity of medical conditions requires continuous monitoring, and complex intervention by licensed nurses.

(d) All health facilities licensed under subdivision (a) (b) , or (f) of Section 1250 shall adopt written policies and procedures for training and orientation of nursing staff.

(e) No registered nurse shall be assigned to a nursing unit or clinical area unless that nurse has first received orientation in that clinical area sufficient to provide competent care to patients in that area, and has demonstrated current competence in providing care in that area.

(f) The written policies and procedures for orientation of nursing staff shall require that all temporary personnel shall receive orientation and be subject to competency validation consistent with Sections 70016.1 and 70214 of Title 22 of the California Code of Regulations .

(g) Requests for waivers to this section that do not jeopardize the health, safety, and well-being of patients affected and that are needed for increased operational efficiency may be granted by the department to rural general acute care hospitals meeting the criteria set forth in Section 70059.1 of Title 22 of the California Code of Regulations .

(h) In case of conflict between this section and any provision or regulation defining the scope of nursing practice, the scope of practice provisions shall control.

(i) The regulations adopted by the department shall augment and not replace existing nurse-to-patient ratios that exist in regulation or law for the intensive care units, the neonatal intensive care units, or the operating room.

(j) The regulations adopted by the department shall not replace existing licensed staff-to-patient ratios for hospitals operated by the State Department of State Hospitals.

(k) The regulations adopted by the department for health facilities licensed under subdivision (b) of Section 1250 that are not operated by the State Department of State Hospitals shall take into account the special needs of the patients served in the psychiatric units.

(l) The department may take into consideration the unique nature of the University of California teaching hospitals as educational institutions when establishing licensed nurse-to-patient ratios.  The department shall coordinate with the Board of Registered Nursing to ensure that staffing ratios are consistent with the Board of Registered Nursing approved nursing education requirements.  This includes nursing clinical experience incidental to a work-study program rendered in a University of California clinical facility approved by the Board of Registered Nursing provided there will be sufficient direct care registered nurse preceptors available to ensure safe patient care.