CNA Patient Ratio Laws by State

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Written by Alexa Davidson, MSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare
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Reviewed by Diana Campion, MSN, APRN, ANP-C Education Development Nurse, Content Writer, IntelyCare
A CNA sits with a nursing home resident who's enjoying a cup of coffee.

Certified nursing assistants, or CNAs, are important members of a direct care nursing team. They’re commonly employed in long-term care facilities, hospices, home health, and hospitals. As caregivers, CNAs are responsible for reducing the risk of patient harm. The care they provide prevents adverse events, such as pressure ulcers and falls, that cost the healthcare industry billions of dollars a year.

A balanced workload helps reduce the risk of patient harm, while helping with retention, but in many states, there’s no limit to the number of patients a CNA cares for on a given shift. We’ve compiled the CNA patient ratio laws by state below. But first, some context about the work of a CNA and how care standards are quantified.

How Direct Care Nursing Teams Work

The most common workplaces for CNAs are post-acute care facilities, which include assisted living, skilled nursing facilities, and nursing homes. In these settings, nursing care is divided among disciplines. Licensed nursing professionals and aids provide hands-on care to residents. Direct care nursing staff consists of:

  • Registered nurses (RNs)
  • Licensed practical nurses (LPNs)
  • Certified nursing assistants (CNAs)

A healthcare administrator, such as a director of nursing (DON), oversees staff and residents. Because they round on residents and families throughout the day, the DON may count in nurse staffing hours.

Per nursing home regulations, residents’ time with nursing staff is measured in staffing hours per resident per day (HPRD). This metric is used to measure how much nursing attention a resident gets in a 24-hour period. Some states have guidelines for HPRD, whereas others have mandated CNA-to-patient ratios.

State Guidelines for CNA-to-Patient Ratios

If you’re looking to improve your facility’s patient safety standards and the positions you’ll need to fill, you may be wondering, “What is the legal CNA-to-patient ratio in a hospital?” The answer isn’t clear cut, as there’s wide variance in CNA patient ratio laws by state (and additional differences among types of facilities). For example, the CNA-to-patient ratio in North Carolina may be different than in Illinois, where facilities may face fines if they don’t meet staffing standards.

The federal government recommends residents in nursing homes receive 4.1 HPRD of direct nursing care per day. However, this isn’t mandated — it’s up to individual states to define safe staffing standards — but properly staffing your facility with the right balance of CNAs can go a long way toward improving CMS compliance, in addition to providing better care for residents.

This doesn’t let facilities off the hook, though. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) holds nursing homes accountable for their conditions with a public reporting and rating system. The Five Star Quality Rating System is designed to offer information to the public about nursing home staffing data, including:

  • Nurse staffing hours per resident per day
  • Nurse turnover
  • Administrator turnover

The report is released quarterly and is meant to encourage facilities to be transparent about staffing. Facilities must also submit an annual assessment that addresses residents’ needs and the facility’s ability to meet them. While CMS can’t enforce staffing ratios, it recommends facilities have “sufficient staff” to meet the needs of residents within a 24-hour period.

Public reporting is available on Medicare’s Care Compare site, which shows data about nurse staffing and time with residents.

Care Standards by State

States without staffing ratio mandates refer to CMS guidelines, which state the facility must have “sufficient staff” to care for all residents. This language leaves it up to facilities to define what appropriate staffing means for their residents. This is why it’s so important to understand the nuances of CNA patient ratio laws by state. Here are some questions to ask when considering what sufficient staffing means at your facility:

  • With these staffing ratios, will caregivers be able to uphold high-quality standards of care (such as skin breakdown prevention, fall prevention, etc.)?
  • Could these staffing ratios put a nurse’s license at risk?
  • Will residents’ families feel safe leaving a loved one in your facility?
  • Would you send a loved one to your own facility?

Other states have mandates to determine staffing standards, such as:

  • The number of direct care staff (RN, LPN, or CNA) per resident
  • CNA-to-patient ratios
  • Hours per resident per day (HPRD)

In certain states, such as Delaware and California, facilities may submit a waiver to bypass staffing minimums. Read about the CNA patient ratio laws by state for more details.

*Data was collected from the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-term Care, the Department of Health and Human Services, and individual state government pages.

State Direct Care Staff Ratios Hours Per Resident Per Day (HPRD)
Alabama Sufficient staff No minimum requirement
Alaska Sufficient staff No minimum requirement
Arizona Sufficient staff No minimum requirement
Arkansas 1-16 residents: 1 direct care staff on days, evenings, and nights

17-32 residents: 2 direct care staff on days, 1 on evenings, 1 on nights

33-49 residents: 2 direct care staff at all times

50-66 residents: 3 direct care staff on days, 2 on evenings, 2 on nights

67-83 residents: 4 direct care staff on days, 2 on evenings, 2 on nights

84 or more residents: 5 direct care staff on days, 3 on evenings, 2 on nights

3.36 average HPRD per month
California Sufficient staff

16-100 residents: 1 awake staff

101-200 residents: 1 on call and 1 awake staff, with an additional awake staff for each additional 100 residents

2.4 HPRD, CNAs
Colorado No minimum ratios for nursing homes

Alternative care facilities must staff 1:10 on days, 1:16 at night

2 HPRD, direct care
Connecticut Rest homes: Must be at least 1 CNA on every residential floor CNAs:Rest homes: 0.7 HPRD between 7am and 9pm; 0.17 HPRD between 9pm and 7am

Chronic and Convalescent Nursing Homes: 1.4 HPRD between 7am and 9pm; 0.5 HPRD between 9pm and 7am

Delaware Direct care staff:

1:7 on days

1:10 on evening shift

1:15 on nights

3.28 HPRD, CNA
Florida CNAs:

1:20

2.5 HPRD, CNAs
Georgia Direct care staff:

1:15 on days

1:25 at night

2 HPRD, direct care
Hawaii No minimum ratios No minimum requirement
Idaho Sufficient staff 2.4 HPRD, direct care
Illinois Sufficient staff Intermediate care:

2.5 HPRD

Skilled nursing care:

3.8 HPRD

A minimum of 25% of care must be from an LPN, 10% from an RN

Indiana Direct care staff:

1:50

No minimum requirement
Iowa Assisted living: Sufficient staff

Residential care (direct care staff):

1:25 on days

1:35 on evening shift

1:45 on nights

2 HPRD; 20% of care must be from an RN or LPN
Kansas Direct care staff:

1:30

1.85 HPRD daily minimum

2 HPRD weekly average

Kentucky Sufficient staff No minimum requirement
Louisiana Sufficient staff 2.35 HPRD, direct care staff
Maine Direct care staff:

1:5 on days

1:10 evening shift

1:15 night shift

2.93 HPRD, CNA
Maryland 1:15, nursing service personnel 3 HPRD, CNA
Massachusetts Sufficient staff 3.58 HPRD, CNA (0.508 must be provided by RN)
Michigan Direct care staff:

1:8 on days

1:12 evening shift

1:15 on nights

2.25 HPRD
Minnesota Minimum 2 direct care staff available at all times 2 HPRD
Mississippi Direct care staff:

1:15 on days

1:25 on nights

2.8 HPRD, direct care staff
Missouri Direct care staff:

1 personnel for every 3-10 residents on days, 1 personnel for every 3-15 residents on evenings, 1 personnel for 3-15 residents on nights; 1 additional personnel for every fraction thereafter

No minimum requirement
Montana Sufficient staff No minimum requirement
Nebraska Sufficient staff No minimum requirement
Nevada Sufficient staff No minimum requirement
New Hampshire Sufficient staff No minimum requirement
New Jersey CNAs:

1:8 on days

1:10 on evenings

1:16 on nights

2.5 HPRD
New Mexico Skilled nursing facilities (direct care staff):
1:7 on days
1:10 on evenings
1:12 on nights
Intermediate care facilities (direct care staff):
1:8 on days
1:10 on evenings
1:13 on nights
Skilled nursing facilities: 2.5 HPRD, direct care staff

Intermediate care facilities: 2.3 HPRD, direct care staff

New York Sufficient staff 3.5 HPRD (at least 2.2 with a CNA, no less than 1.1 with an RN or LPN)
North Carolina CNAs:

1:20 on day and evening shift

1:30 on nights

1 CNA per floor of multistory facilities

No minimum requirement
North Dakota Sufficient staff No minimum requirement
Ohio Sufficient staff 2.5 HPRD, STNA
Oklahoma Direct care staff:
1:6 on days
1:8 evening shift
1:15 on nights
3.81 HPRD direct care (2.6 of which are from a CNA)
Oregon CNAs:

1:7 on days

1:9.5 on evening shift

1:17 on nights

2.46, CNA
Pennsylvania *Effective 7/1/23:

1:12 on day and evening shifts

1:20 on nights

*Effective 7/1/24:

1:10 on days

1:11 on evening shift

1:15 on nights

Currently 2.7 HPRD; 2.87 HPRD effective 7/1/23; 3.2 HPRD effective 7/1/24
Rhode Island Sufficient staff 2.6 HPRD, CNA

3.81 HPRD, total direct care

South Carolina Direct care staff:

1:9 on days

1:13 evening shift

1:22 on nights

1.63, HPRD, CNA
South Dakota Sufficient staff No minimum requirement
Tennessee Sufficient staff 2 HPRD (0.4 hours should be from a licensed nurse per shift)
Texas Direct care staff:

1:8 at all times

No minimum requirement
Utah Sufficient staff No minimum requirement
Vermont Sufficient staff 3 HPRD (includes at least 2 HPRD provided by CNA weekly average)
Virginia Sufficient staff No minimum requirement
Washington Sufficient staff 3.4 HPRD, CNA
Washington D.C. Sufficient staff 4.1 HPRD, CNA (0.6 hours by an RN)
West Virginia Sufficient staff 2.25 HPRD, CNA
Wisconsin Sufficient staff 3.25 HPRD (including 0.65 LN HPRD) for intensive skilled nursing care, 2.5 HPRD (including 0.5 LN HPRD) for skilled nursing care, 2 HPRD (including 0.4 LN HPRD) for intermediate or limited nursing care
Wyoming Sufficient staff 2.25 HPRD for skilled residents, 1.5 HPRD for non-skilled residents

Get CNAs Into Your Facility Fast

Now that you know the CNA patient ratio laws by state, are you concerned about whether your facility is in compliance? Stop scrambling for staff and let IntelyCare bring nurse assistants to you. Partner with us today and get the quality caregivers you need.