ABSTRACT [FROM JOURNAL]
Public reporting is a tactic that hospitals and other health care facilities use to provide data such as outcomes to clinicians, patients, and payers. Although inadequate registered nurse (RN) staffing has been linked to poor patient outcomes, only eight states in the United States publicly report staffing ratios—five mandated by legislation and the other three electively. We examine nurse staffing trends after the New Jersey (NJ) legislature and governor enacted P.L.1971, c.136 (C.26:2 H-13) on January 24, 2005, mandating that all health care facilities compile, post, and report staffing information. We conduct a secondary analysis of reported data from the State of NJ Department of Health on 73 hospitals in 2008 to 2009 and 72 hospitals in 2010 to 2015. The first aim was to determine if NJ hospitals complied with legislation, and the second was to identify staffing trends postlegislation. On the reports, staffing was operationalized as the number of patients per RN per quarters. We obtained 30 quarterly reports for 2008 through 2015 and cross-checked these reports for data accuracy on the NJ Department of Health website. From these data, we created a longitudinal data set of 13 inpatient units for each hospital (14,158 observations) and merged these data with American Hospital Association Annual Survey data. The number of patients per RN decreased for 10 specialties, and the American Hospital Association data demonstrate a similar trend. Although the number of patients does not account for patient acuity, the decrease in the patients per RN over 7 years indicated the importance of public reporting in improving patient safety.