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Critical Care Unit Nurse-to-Patient Ratios

In Massachusetts, all hospitals with an intensive care unit (ICU) are required to report their quarterly ICU-registered nurse-to-patient ratios to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, starting with the first quarter of 2016 (January-March).

Each hospital must report the following aggregate information quarterly for each ICU:

  • Average daily patient census
  • Average daily staff nurse census
  • Average daily staff nurse-to-patient ratio, which is found by dividing the average daily patient census by the average daily staff nurse census.

* Please note that a staff nurse is defined as a “Registered Nurse providing direct patient care in an ICU,” and does not include other nurses within a unit.

Section 231 of M.G.L. Chapter 111, as inserted by Chapter 155 of the Acts of 2014, became effective on September 28, 2014. The new law provides in part that “in all intensive care units the patient assignment for the registered nurse shall be 1:1 or 1:2 depending on the stability of the patient as assessed by the acuity tool and by the staff nurses in the unit, including the nurse manager or nurse manager’s designee when needed to resolve a disagreement.”

Below is the quarterly staffing data for Emerson Hospital’s Critical Care Unit.

Reporting Period Average Daily
Patient Census
Average Daily
Staff Nurse Census
Average Daily Staff Nurse-to-Patient Ratio
October-December 2017
6.26 3.83
July-September 2017
6.09 3.56
April-June 2017 6.2 3.40 1:1.82
January-March 2017 6.21 3.63 1:1.71
October-December 2016 6.03 3.88 1:1.55
July-September 2016 6.81 3.86 1:1.76
April-June 2016
4.12 1:1.65
January-March 2016
6.64 4.04 1:1.64


For more information, please contact Emerson Hospital Associate Chief Nursing Officer Justine DeFronzo at 978-287-3365.