Home > Elder Care Guide

Addressing Nurse to Patient Ratios in America

Hospital productivity rates are determined by the hospital’s nurse to patient ratio. If a hospital has a high number of nurses on duty at any given time, patients have a better chance of receiving individual attention. The hospital can also see more patients because they have a large number of staff members that can tend to the patients faster. However, there is a difference of opinion with regards to how many nurses a hospital should have on staff. Currently, the governments of fifteen states, along with Washington D.C., are debating on bills that would determine the number of nurses that are needed in order to improve conditions in hospitals and to benefit the livelihood of nurses. In case you’re looking into any rn to msn bridge programs, you might want to know what to expect.

Low Staff Numbers in Hospitals

In March 2013, the American Organization of Nurse Executives held a conference in which 39 percent of the attendees stated that they felt that current staffing numbers in hospitals is inadequate while 38 percent felt that the numbers are unsatisfactory. Having low staff numbers in hospitals contributes to uneven workloads and longer shifts for nurses. Nurses also reported being tired before their shift even starts because they have been overworked. To remedy this situation, some states have brought forth legislation that will improve staffing issues. Some of the aspects of the legislation include requiring states to mandate laws requiring hospitals to always have a certain nurse to patient ratio, requiring every hospital to openly share its nurse to patient ratio with the public and a group that regulates the ratio, and implementing a staff committee that will examine the needs of the population that surrounds the hospital and create a staffing plan to match those needs.

California became the first state to set minimum requirements for nurse to patient ratios in 2004. Since then, nurses in California reported that they were not as tired and did not feel as overwhelmed due to the extra staff. More nurses were satisfied with their job and fewer patient deaths occurred because they had the proper number of staff members to ensure that everything ran smoothly. Currently, the states of Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, and Washington have followed the methods taken by California and adopted some type of regulation to address nurse to patient ratios.

National Nursing Shortage Reform and Patient Advocacy Act

In April 2013, Senator Barbara Boxer introduced the bill for the National Nursing Shortage Reform and Patient Advocacy Act. Under this act, all hospitals would be required to have the following nurse to patient ratios: 1:1 for trauma and perioperative units, 1:2 for critical care units, 1:3 in emergency rooms, 1:4 in surgery units, 1:5 in rehabilitation units, and 1:6 in well-baby nurseries. This staffing plan would allow hospitals to be better equipped to handle their patients and would not overwhelm nurses with so much work.

In addressing the nurse to patient ratios in America, instituting bare minimum upwardly adjustable staffing levels helps in every aspect of the sector. Having adequate nurse to patient ratios in hospitals is necessary to prevent the burnout of nurses due to long shifts with inadequate breaks. It also allows patients to receive more personal attention from nurses so that their needs can be met and there will be fewer deaths due to inattentiveness.

More to Read: