In the health care industry, nurse to patient ratios is often a controversial issue. Registered nurses know and continue to reiterate the importance of safe staffing levels in health care facilities. Reductions in nursing budgets, coupled with the expanding nursing shortage, has resulted in a reduction of available nursing staff. As a result, the employed nursing staff are forced to work longer hours with more acutely ill patients. Consequently, patient care is compromised and ultimately perpetuates the nursing shortage because of this negative work environment. Providing safe quality health care is expensive. Health care facilities are always in search of ways to trim spending while maintaining the same quality of care. One of the methods in which hospitals trim the spending budget is through labor reduction. Tempting as this may seem, this method presents a massive dilemma to providing safe quality care. Less staff coupled with large patient workloads will lead to adverse patient outcomes. Evidence shows that it is more cost effective to maintain safe staffing levels and prevent adverse patient outcomes versus the estimated savings of labor reduction. Maintaining safe nurse to patient ratios reduces patient
infection rates and patient mortality rates. Ratios also reduces nursing fatigue, which increases
job satisfaction and nurse retention rates saving on the cost of hiring and training new staff.
Mandating staffing ratios is not the answer because the health care industry is already burdened
with an overwhelming number of regulations. The aforementioned issues necessitates further
research on how to implement a cost effective, safe, and quality method of maintaining nurse to
patient ratios. This research paper will prove the considerable evidence of the correlation
between nurse staffing levels and the effect on adverse patient outcomes while exploring
alternative methods of implementing safe ratios without decreasing crucial staffing levels and
without further burdening health care facilities with additional government regulations.
To understand the importance of nurse to patient ratios, it is also important to understand the necessity of safe ratios or staffing levels. Many research articles have provided overwhelming evidence of the correlation between nurse staffing levels and patient outcomes. One consequence of inadequate staffing levels is adverse patient outcomes. Adverse patient outcomes includes medication administration errors, medical errors, patient falls, skin breakdown or pressure ulcers, healthcare associated infections (HAI) such as urinary tract infection (UTI) or surgical site infection (SSI), ventilator associated pneumonia, upper gastrointestinal bleeding, shock, cardiac arrest, longer hospital stay, and failure to rescue or death (Curtin, 2008). Many of the preceding adverse events are preventable and maintaining a safe staffing level would aide in this preventative measure. Evidence shows that inadequate...