Safe nurse-patient staffing ratios are incredibly important in medical care facilities. The proper number of nurse staff can support better care for patients, enhance patient satisfaction, and reduce nurse fatigue.
By law, Medicare-certified facilities must “have adequate numbers of licensed registered nurses, licensed practical (vocational) nurses, and other personnel to provide nursing care to all patients as needed”.
California has been the first state to implement a law that requires facilities to maintain the minimum nurse-patient ratios at all times by each department. It has been proven that the correct nurse-patient ratio can lead to clinical improvements in patient care and reductions in healthcare costs, such as:
Enhancement in safety outcomes by reducing falls, pressure ulcers, and health care-associated infections (HAIs)
- Pressure ulcers usually occur over a bony prominence of the body when there are prolonged periods of pressure at one time. Pressure ulcers can be prevented. If there are more nurses on duty, they are able to report on patient conditions and assess the skin for ulcers.
- HAIs are infections that arise when a patient receives treatment for a surgical or medical condition in an acute or long term stay at a hospital or surgical center. By having adequate healthcare staffing ratios, nurses have the time to apply precautionary measures, such as sterile equipment and procedures that prevent HAI infections.
- The number of falls may be reduced when there are more nurses on staff. Nursing staff are able to recognize and monitor high-risk patients. Nurses can act as safety companions and can perform more safety rounds to ensure patients are well taken care of.
Reduction in medical and medication errors, patient death, readmission to hospital, and length of stay
Hospitalization can be risky for many patients. Better ratios of nurses to patients help ensure the five rights of medication administration and the proper medication reconciliation procedures are being followed. Nurses can double or triple check one another, and there is more time to accurately document everything. Nurses can reduce hospital readmission by correctly determining a patient’s readiness for discharge, compiling an accurate discharge summary, coordinating care across different settings, and conducting follow-up phone calls. A sufficient number of nurses can prevent patient adverse events which can lead to a longer stay in the hospital.
Improvement in patient satisfaction and scores for HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems)
Better nurse staffing ratios means a higher quality of care for all patients. It can increase teamwork and care coordination. Nurses have more time to educate their patients in regards to their medical issue(s). Nurses can also provide patients with resources to improve their lives and better manage their conditions.
Prevention of fatigue, job dissatisfaction, and burnout for nurses
Nurse shortages require nurses on duty to work long hours under highly stressful conditions. This can lead to extreme exhaustion, job dissatisfaction, and even injury. Nurses who work in these kinds of conditions are more likely to make a medical error or mistake. Nurses can start to feel overwhelmed, especially when dealing with the emotional stress of losing patients and supporting their families.
Reduction of cost of patient care by avoiding unplanned readmissions
When there are a sufficient number of nurses, they can conduct follow-up calls with patients. This gives patients access to educational services and allows them to make and stay on top of follow-up appointments. These calls are also an opportunity for the nurses to stay informed of the patient’s current status, so that they can make the proper recommendations.
To provide the greatest possible care and get the maximum value from registered nurses, optimal staffing levels are needed. Benefits are greater when staffing models adjust the nurse-patient ratio to account for shift and unit level factors. There are currently national healthcare and nursing organizations advocating for standardized nurse-patient ratios and other safe staffing laws.
If you are part of a medical facility that suffers from inadequate nurse staffing ratios, NurseRegistry can be of help. We have highly skilled nurses who are experienced in a wide range of specialties, such as preop, post-op, and surgical care, among other specialties.
California nurses are available for per diem, short-term or long-term shifts. Call us at (650) 462-1001 to speak with our Intake Specialist about your facility’s specific staffing needs.
The National Campaign for Safe RN-to-Patient Staffing Ratios wants to ensure safe staffing ratios for RNs and patients throughout the nation.
More resources and information can be found on the American Nurses Association website.
The American Organization of Nurse Executives is working with national health care and nursing organizations to fix issues regarding safe nurse to patient ratios.