The implementation of the Affordable Care Act has been everything but a smooth transition. The news media enjoys featuring issues found within its policies on a weekly basis. The frequent stories about policy holders losing coverage has the potential to mislead the American public into thinking the insured population is decreasing; however, the truth is that there is a growing problem in the patient to healthcare provider ratio within hospitals.
The influx of insured patients due to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) needs to be met with an increase in health care providers to ensure adequate and safe patient care. Currently, there are issues regarding safe staffing within hospitals that leaves the patient’s and healthcare providers’ safety at risk. Recent studies have proven that more errors are likely to occur when there is under staffing, or an overly stressed staff. The purpose of this document is to expose current flaws in policy, professionalism, leadership, and management regarding safe staffing to ensure safety for patients and healthcare providers.
Unfortunately, the policies within the ACA do not call for increased staffing, but encourage the opposite. Because insurance companies are now forced to “guarantee issue”, a budget deficit is forming that needs to be corrected. A budget deficit becomes the insurer’s responsibility, which causes businesses and hospitals to look for ways to find money, and one the most common way to do that is to cut back on employees. To meet increased premium prices under the ACA, insurers and employers have the potential to restrict provider networks to save money (Nix, 2014). I believe that policies need to be created or reformed to insure incentive to increase, not decrease staffing and place the patients at risk. On hospital units where RN staffing is poor, the quality of care is likely to become compromised (Hayes & Ball, 2012). The findings support other research on staffing by illustrating that simply having enough people on the unit might get more tasks completed, but it does not necessarily mean improved patient care and experience (Hayes & Ball, 2012). If the number one rule in medicine is to do no harm, it seems contradictory to allow anything less than adequate staffing to reduce the risk for harm.
Dr. Linda Aiken is the leading researcher in nursing staffing rates within the United States (Kerfoot & Douglas, 2013). She suggests that each state follows California’s example of conducting research to determine a minimum staffing ratio and making it a law (Kerfoot & Douglas, 2013). The California legislation enhanced nurse staffing in hospitals across the state and improved the patient care results of millions of patients (Kerfoot & Douglas, 2013). After the bill went into effect, job satisfaction increased, and the nursing shortage ended (Kerfoot & Douglas, 2013).
When nurses are held to a professional standard, staffing becomes safer and more efficient. The professional standard created by the...