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The Importance of the Proper Nurse-patient Ratio

Career News July 15, 2014

In order to ensure that patients receive the best of care while cooped up in hospitals, it’s important that there is the appropriate nurse-to-patient staffing ratio set in place. Research has shown time and again that any nurse-patient ratio over 4:1 can actually have a direct negative impact on how the patient is cared for. Unfortunately, this is becoming a huge issue today in the nursing industry. In fact, California had to recently pass state-mandated ratios for nurses in hospitals in order to try and combat this situation. However, there are lawmakers and even nurses who are completely against these ratios. Below, you will learn why mandatory nurse ratios are needed.

Patient Safety

When it comes to keeping your patients safe, there must be an adequate nurse-to-patient staffing ratio in effect. This ratio has a direct impact on all sorts of areas, like hospital-related mortality, the length of the patient’s stay and failure to rescue. Actually, according to the Institute of Medicine’s research, “physicians, patients, other healthcare providers and nurses themselves have long known: How well we are cared for by nurses affects our health and sometimes can be a matter of life or death.” When there are not enough nurses staffing each patient in care, there is no way for them to provide their services efficiently. These patients will end up without the attention they truly deserve, which can have disastrous ramifications.

Cost Effective

Besides it being crucial for the safety and well-being of patients, it is vital to have the right ratio for financial reasons. When the correct nurse-to-patient staffing ratio is created, hospitals can save money in the long run because the cost of caring for patients is reduced. Appropriate ratios have generated serious savings for hospitals thanks to shorter patient stays, lower overtime costs, improved patient results and reduced RN turnover.

Protect the Nurses

When it comes to the nurse-to-patient staffing ratio, we are so quick to discuss how this affects patients, but it also takes a huge toll on nurses too. When you are forced to take on more patients than is realistic, this leads to all kinds of deleterious effects. For instance, many nurses report feeling depressed, stressed and burned out. These high ratios really do have a psychological effect on nurses as they are clearly being overworked.

Of course, nursing is a fabulous profession for you to branch out into, but that is only when the hospital nurse-to-patient staffing ratio is balanced out. If not, this can create all kinds of problems for patients, hospitals and nurses alike. Thankfully, individual states are working on passing laws to protect all those involved so this issue can become a challenge of the past.

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