The economic impact on healthcare has taken its toll on the number of registered nurses providing bedside care to patients, compromising patient safety and dramatically increasing the potential for negative outcomes. Several factors have immensely contributed to the nursing shortages over the years, including healthcare organizations downsizing, increased workloads, inadequate staffing plans and job dissatisfaction. Mandated nurse-to-patient staffing ratios have been implemented in several states to date with many more trying to pass some type of legislation. Have these ratios affected the quality of care or is it more realistic to create staffing committees that are based on each unit’s unique situation and varying requirements?
Julia, a registered nurse, has been run down all week making medication errors and recently one of her patient’s fell out of bed. Julia has eight patients assigned to her due to staffing shortage since the hospital decided to stop using LPNs. Julia is very overwhelmed and is unable to safely take care of her patients. Julia was required to report to her manager’s office the next morning due to her patient neglect and fall. The manager informed Julia the high nurse to patient ratio is not a problem as other floors and nurses are doing fine with it. Recently, I have seen this occur with in my own facility I work for. As of right now it is staffed with fifty percent locums or travel nurses, which leads to increased
Nurse-to-patient ratios is not a new topic of debate for all of us who deliver care to patients every day. Only lately it has been a big issue that have caught the attention of many. Demands by the medical community for changes concerning staffing, asking for the government interventions in minimum staffing laws. Registered nurses have long acknowledged and continue to emphasize that staffing issues are an ongoing concern, one that influences the safety of both the patient and the nurse. (ANA, 2015) .nowadays hospitals are running for profit and the emphasis is not put on job burnout, stress, and endangerment of patients. Nursing shortages is a very pertinent problem, it will be optimum to have laws in place to help with the issue, however meanwhile leadership and management methods to the matter can help to mend the nursing situation and avoid many of the damaging effects of unfitting nurse-to-patient ratios.
Nursing to patient ratio can have a direct impact on patient safety. Studies have been done that show that these ratios impact patient outcomes and mortality rates when nurses are understaffed and are given a larger patient load than they can handle safely. Nursing education level has also shown to play a role in patient outcomes. Whether they are an unexperienced nurse or the patients are at a higher acuity and require more time for care, these larger ratios can be detrimental to the nursing quality of care that can be provided. These larger nurse to patient ratios can also play a part in nurse burnout leading to medical errors, negative patient outcomes, and higher health care costs in the future.
For over a decade researchers have been performing studies examining the effects patient-to-nurse ratios have on adverse outcomes, mortality rates, and failure-to-rescue rates of patients and on job dissatisfaction and burnout experiences of nurses. Aiken, Sloane, Sochalski, and Silber (2002) performed a study which showed that each additional patient per nurse increased patient mortality within 30 days of admission by 7% and increased failure-to-rescue by 7% as well. This same study also showed that each additional patient per nurse resulted in a 23% increase in nurse burnout and a 15% increase in job dissatisfaction. Additionally, Rafferty et al. (2007) performed a study in which the results showed that patients in hospitals with higher patient-to-nurse ratios had a 26% higher mortality rate and nurses were twice as likely to have job dissatisfaction and experience burnout. Blegen, Goode, Spetz, Vaughn, and Park (2011) performed a study where results showed that more staffing hours for nurses resulted in lower rates of congestive heart failure morality, infection, and prolonged hospital stays. The same study also showed that increased nursing care from registered nurses resulted in lower infection and failure to rescue rates and fewer cases of sepsis.
Mandatory staffing ratios have been suggested as a way to meet nursing staffs’ concerns of high nurse to patient ratios. Mandatory staffing ratios are used as a way to reduce workload and patient mortality and are aimed at addressing the perceived imbalance between patient needs and nursing resources. (American Nursing Association, 2014). However, issues have been raised on applicability of staffing ratios since it could lead to increased costs without the guarantee of improvement in the quality of health care and could also lead to unintended consequences including unit closures, limited infrastructural development and limited access by patients (American Nursing Association, 2014).
With a shortage of nurses, the care and safety of patients may become compromised. The nurses themselves may be having feelings of dissatisfaction, overwhelm and distress. Nurses who may become overwhelmed with the high number of patients may become frustrated and burnt out. And inadequate staff of nurses may lead to a negative impact on the patient’s outcome. The quality of care the patients may receive in facilities with low staffing may be poor.
When was the last time you were in the hospital or a loved one was in the hospital, and ever wondered where the nurse is, and they haven 't returned for hours. You finally push the assistance button several times, and they open the door and hurriedly say, “I will be right back”, then you don 't see them for a while again. When they come back to check up on you, you explain to them what you need, and then they send in a less qualified staff member to assist you. At this point, you become very annoyed and frustrated not to mention scared to be admitted in the hospital to begin with. Little do you know, your nurse has ten other patients and other non-nursing tasks that they are responsible taking care of. They have been working a double shift and are extremely exhausted, and a large stack of charts that they will have to do before their shift is over. As a patient, you now become frustrated and are not happy about this; as a nurse, they are just as frustrated as you are, not only because the amount of work they have but more importantly they can 't deliver the appropriate care they long to give. For most hospitals they do not hire enough registered nurses for reasons that are good and bad. This is an issue that needs to be addressed not only locally but nationally and on a constant basis. When there are too many patients for one registered nurse to attend to, nurses become exhausted, mistakes are made, and patients are unsatisfied. A minimum nurse to patient ratio needs to be
Durning, (2010) tells how nurses are limited in giving quality care due to the number of patients they have on their shift. It also explains the huge difference in the task of caring for a post-partum mother and a patient recovering from a major trauma surgery. When nurses are too busy because they have too many patients to care for, they are more likely to overlook an important change in their patient. This will cause the patient to deteriorate unnecessarily and could potentially result in death (Durning 2010). “Nurses are the main surveillance system in hospitals” (Queensland Nurse, 2010, p.14). If they have too many patients to look after, something is more likely to be missed. There was a study done last year by Nursing Times, that showed the more nurses a hospital had per bed, resulted in fewer patient deaths, and actually lowered the patient’s length of stay (Queensland Nurse, 2010). The state of Victoria in Australia, like California actually has government mandated nurse-to-patient ratios. Since its implementation of the ratios 10 years ago, Victoria’s health system has been made considerably better. There is a safer environment for the patients, the workplace morale is better, and there are less complaints from the public about the quality of care they receive while hospitalized (Holmes, 2010).
Many nurses face the issue of understaffing and having too much of a workload during one shift. When a unit is understaffed not only do the nurses get burnt out, but the patients also don’t receive the care they deserve. The nurse-patient ratio is an aspect that gets overlooked in many facilities that could lead to possible devastating errors. Nurse- patient ratio issues have been a widely studied topic and recently new changes have been made to improve the problem.
Extensive research has shown that there is a correlation between staffing and patient ratio and patient outcomes. Better outcomes particularly are shown with lower patient to nurse ratio. However staffing issues remain an ongoing concern which greatly impacts the safety of the nurse and their patients, and also impacts cost of healthcare. Evidence shows that adequate staffing causes reduction in mortality, nurse burnout and job satisfaction, and reduction in medical errors.
I would say the majority of issues I have seen relate to nurses feeling their patient load was too much which may possibly result in unsafe patient care. This typically relates directly to staffing issues.
Inconsistent nurse-patient ratios are a concern in hospitals across the nation because they limit nurse’s ability to provide safe patient care. Healthcare professionals such as nurses and physicians agree that current nurse staffing systems are inadequate and unreliable and not only affect patient health outcomes, but also create job dissatisfaction among medical staff (Avalere Health, 2015). A 2002 study led by RN and PhD Linda Aiken suggests that "forty percent of hospitals nurses have burnout levels that exceed the norms for healthcare workers" (Aiken, Clarke, Sloane, Sochalski & Silber, 2002). These data represents the constant struggle of nurses when trying to provide high quality care in a hospital setting.
This highly studied issue is one of great importance. A majority of the studies conducted on this topic, including the ones mentioned above, have concluded with the same grim results: understaffed hospitals result in needless patient deaths. Chapter twenty-five in the Patient Safety and Quality: An Evidence-Based Handbook for Nurses provides a substantial overview of the studies that have been carried out on this topic; it reiterates the concepts of the studies, and strengthens their findings: high patient to nurse ratios result in heavier workloads, decreased job satisfaction and patient danger. Conversely, this chapter also maintains
Nurses are crucial in providing quality care in the health care industry. It is imperative to maintain the proper staffing ratio to ensure that nurses can maintain high quality care for their patients. Studies have shown that the increasing workload of nurses can be linked to increased patient deaths, medical errors, hospital-acquired infections, longer hospital stays, and many other complications. (National Nurses United n.d. ) Leaders and managers play a vital role in developing