Review of Literature Literature Support 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. Change Theories Because the literature supports improved patient safety and outcomes and improved nurse satisfaction from having adequate nurse staffing and improved patient-to-nurse
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Staffing needs affect the nursing department’s budget, staff productivity, the quality of care provided to patients and even the retention of nurses (Jooste, 2013). The nurse manager has to explain to the management of the benefits of change in providing adequate staffing all the time. Adequate staffing helps staff retention. Staff retention saves a lot of money in terms of orienting new people to the unit. Safe staffing always helps in the reduction of falls, infection rates, pressure ulcers, decrease hospital stays and death. Flexible and creative scheduling is essential for retaining staff and promoting a positive work climate (Grohar-Murray & Langan, 2011). Adequate staffing with good staffing ratio will help nurses to concentrate on their patient care which may help in a reduction in medical errors and lawsuits to the hospital.
According to L.H. Aiken et al., there is strong evidence that supports a connection between better nurse staffing and better patient outcomes. Scientists argue that a higher amount of nurses on staff allows for a lower rate of overall patient mortality. The reasoning behind this point is the fact that higher nurse rates correlate with “better nurse care environments.” Patient to nurse ratio, highly educated nurses, and increased nurses on staff during a single period of time effects the environment that allows for proper patient care. If there are too many patients assigned to a single nurse it will lead to increased patient complications (medical care/ medication errors, mortality rates, etc.) increased nurse fatigue, and decreased nurse retention/job satisfaction. Scientists argue that these issues must be looked at immediately because there are “numbers of lives that would be saved through improved care environments.” Scientists also argue that the way to improve care environment is by having hospitals become “magnet
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.
The purpose of this article is to discuss appropriate nurse staffing and staffing ratios and its impact on patient care. Although the issue is just not about numbers as we discuss staffing we begin to see how complex the issue has become over the years. Many factors can affect appropriate nurse staffing ratios. As we investigate nurse staffing ratios we can see the importance of finding the right mix and number of nurses to provide quality care for patients.
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.
One can wonder if there is any correlation between patient-nurse ratio and it’s effect on patient safety. In the research conducted by Jack Needleman and his associates (2002), they examined the relationship between amount of care provided by the nurse and compared it to patient outcome. The result showed that the increase amount of time a nurse is able to spend with the patient better the quality of care is. The data for this research was collected from seven hundred and ninety-nine hospitals across eleven states. This covered both medical and surgical patients that were discharged and the data was evaluated the relationship between the time provide to the patients by the nurses and patients’ outcome. As research showed,
In an article published by Applied Nursing Research the authors point out that nurse staffing is related to patient outcomes, “lower levels of RN staffing are associated with higher rates of OPSN (Outcomes Potentially Sensitive to Nursing) in both medical and surgical patients treated in hospitals, U.S. Medicare, and other publically available administrative data” (Duffield et al., 2011, p. 245). The writer of this paper researched 5 relevant articles regarding the relationship between nurse to patient ratio, morbidity, and mortality, every article related similar information. “A systematic review of 102 studies concluded that increased RN staffing levels are associated with lower rates of morbidity and mortality” (Ball, Murrells, Rafferty, Morrow, & Griffiths, 2013, p. 2).
Significance: Because nursing is the largest health care profession and nurses provide most of the patient care, and as an acute nurse, I can relate to how unsafe nurse staffing/low nurse-to-patient ratios can have negative impact on patient satisfaction and outcome, can lead to medical and/or medication errors and nurse burnout. It can also bring about anxiety and frustration, which can also clouds the nurses’ critical thinking. Most patients might not know the work load on a particular nurse and can assume that her nurse is just not efficient. Doctors also can become very impatient with their nurses because orders are not being followed through that can delay treatments to their patients. There is also delays in attending to call lights resulting in very unhappy patients who needed help.
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.
Nurse staffing have an effect on a variety of areas within nursing. Quality of care is usually affected. Hospitals with low staffing tend to have higher incidence of poor patient outcomes. Martin, (2015) wrote an article on how insufficient nursing staff increases workload and job dissatisfaction, which in effect decreases total patient care over all. When nurse staffing is inadequate, the ability to practice ethically becomes questionable. Time worked, overtime, and total hours per week have significant effect on errors. When nurses works long hours, the more likely errors will be made. He also argued that inadequate staffing not only affects their patients but also their loved ones, future and current nursing staff, and the hospitals in which they are employed. An unrealistic workload may result in chronic fatigue, poor sleep patterns, and absenteeism thus affecting the patients they take care of.
Additionally, the study found that a high patient to nurse ratio resulted in greater emotional exhaustion and greater job dissatisfaction amongst nurses. Each additional patient per nurse was associated with a 23% increase in the likelihood of nurse burnout, and a 15% increase in the likelihood of job dissatisfaction. Moreover, 40% of hospital nurses have burnout levels exceeding the normal level for healthcare workers, and job dissatisfaction among hospital nurses is four times greater than the average for all US workers. 43% of nurses involved in this study that reported job dissatisfaction intended to leave their job within the upcoming year. (Aiken et al.)
The broad research problem leading to this study is the belief that nursing shortage in facilities leads to patient safety issues. The review of available literature on this topic shows strong evidence that lower nurse staffing levels in hospitals are associated with worse patient outcomes. Some of these outcomes include very high patient to nurse ratio, fatigue for nurses leading to costly medical mistakes, social environment, nursing staff attrition from the most affected facilities. The study specifically attempts to find a way to understand how nurse
Barry Hill (2017) performed studies related to the quality of care that patients receive and what factors are associated with those perceptions. One area that was noted to be of importance and directly related to quality of care provided to patients is staff dissatisfaction and burnout. This study also found that longer shifts contributed to increased amounts of emotional exhaustion leading to decreased quality of care for patients. Addressing staffing needs early and intervening can decrease the amount of nurse burnout and dissatisfaction that is often seen. This study has shown that hiring additional competent nurses reduces medication errors, falls, infections, wounds, and decreases hospital litigation costs, while improving staff morale, patient experience and care, and cost-effectiveness for the hospital.
Hospitals nationwide are experiencing nurse shortage and increased workloads because of shorter hospital stays, fewer support resources and higher acuity in patients (Vahey, D. C., Aiken, L. H., Sloane, D. M., Clarke, S. P., & Vargas, D., 2004). Higher nurse workloads are directly associated with job burnout and job dissatisfaction which in turn causes more voluntary nurse turnover and relates to the increased nursing shortage. According to the Missouri Hospital Association the turnover rate of nurses has increased by fourteen percent in the last five years (Browning M., 2012). Nursing shortage is a real threat to the patient population. According to the Quality Health Outcomes Model by the American Academy of Nursing by Donabedian, effects of the healthcare interventions are characterized by the environment the staff works in (Vahey et al., 2004). Donabedian describes that quality metrics can be divided into three broad categories, structural, process, and clinical.
One of the many goals of the nursing profession is to provide high-quality, safe patient care. There are many responsibilities that come with a nursing career and when the nurse to patient ratio increases, there is a possibility that it may hinder the safe care that patients deserve, and this may result in negative patient outcomes and level of satisfaction. Staffing is one of the many issues that healthcare facilities face. In many facilities, there never seems to be enough nurses per shift to provide high quality, thorough patient care which often leads to burnt out staff, and frustrated patients and families. This review discusses the findings of quantitative studies and one systematic review that involves patient outcomes in relation to nurse staffing.