Arkansas’ nursing home staffing requirements will be updated for the first time in decades after Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) on Wednesday signed a measure that providers called a “big win for our long-term care facilities.” 

The legislation, HB 1776, was passed by the state’s Senate earlier this week and sent to the governor’s desk to be signed into law. The previous law, which was put in place more than 20 years ago, required minimum staffing levels to be based on a per-shift basis, explained Rachel Bunch, executive director of the Arkansas Health Care Association.

Rachel Bunch, executive
director of the Arkansas Health
Care Association

The old staffing ratios were the equivalent to 2.8 hours of staff time per resident day. The new standard calls for 3.6 average direct care hours per residents days, which is a nearly 30% increase to the previous minimum requirement.

“Our shifts were in statute [7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.; and 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.] and did not allow for flexibility in staffing models, which is not helpful for person-centered care or staff recruitment and retention,” Bunch told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News on Wednesday.  

The measure also allows facilities to count medication assistants and therapists toward their direct care staff. Previously, the law allowed providers to count only registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and certified nursing assistants in the calculation. 

Previously, laws also required staff members to sign in and out using paper sheets, which went “far beyond the federal daily posting requirements.” Now, Bunch said providers can simply use the Payroll-Based Journal reports that are already in place. 

“The passage of this bill is definitely a win for our long-term care facilities,” Bunch said. “The bill cleans up a lot of outdated language in state statute and takes out lots of things that have been replaced by federal regulations since this was updated.”