Nurses know that there is a correlation between maintaining adequate staffing levels and safe patient outcomes. Nurse to patient ratios is a very complicated issue in the health care industry. Nursing shortages, higher patient acuities, shorter hospital stays, and the cost of health care has presented a challenge to this staffing issue. An inadequate staff ratio puts patients at an increased risk of adverse outcomes such as medical or medication errors, increased hospital acquired infections, and increased mortality rates ("Nurse," n.d.). The complications and adverse outcomes associated with the inadequate staffing levels come at a cost, which is an even larger financial burden on ...view middle of the document...
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 such as increased hospital acquired infections (HAI) which cost hospitals between $35 to $45 billion dollars annually to treat. Evidence shows that it is more cost effective to maintain safe staffing levels and prevent HAI's versus the estimated savings of labor reduction. Maintaining safe nurse to patient ratios reduces patient infection rates, patient mortality rates, which saves health care facilities money (Scott, 2009). Safe nurse to patient ratios also reduces nursing fatigue, which increases job satisfaction and nurse retention rates saving on the cost of training and hiring new staff ("Nurse," n.d.).
Mandating staffing ratios is not the answer because the health care industry is already burdened with an overwhelming amount of regulations. In an attempt for an alternative solution to mandated regulations, I will be investigating a model of billing titled, "Nursing Intensity Billing", which is an alternative way of hospital reimbursement for the cost of nursing staff based upon patient acuity levels (Welton, 2007). Mandatory ratios, if implemented nationally would increase the cost of health care and would not necessarily guarantee safer quality health care. The cost to hire additional nursing staff to comply with imposed mandates would not be offset by reimbursement to the hospitals. Hospitals would be forced into an impossible situation of hiring more nursing staff, which in an attempt to offset the cost, hospitals would inevitably pass the increase in spending to consumers. This billing method is a promising alternative necessitating further research.
Method of Research
My prospective audience will be health care professionals who may have a basic knowledge of this topic and the effect it has on patient safety, but may not know the statistical evidence in which to support the need for nurse to patient ratios. My goal for this research paper is equipping other nurses with the knowledge and evidence to take action and advocate for their patients as well as themselves. I will utilize scholarly and peer reviewed research articles, statistical studies, and professional nursing organization ethical and positional statements. I plan to explore the history of this issue, labor cost, billing methods of hospitals, the results of nursing perspectives on government mandates versus individual facility mandates, risk factors of ignoring the problem, job dissatisfaction from the nurses perspective and how it relates to patient safety, the cost of reducing labor versus treating HAIs and concluding with a cost effective idea on maintaining safe nurse to patient ratios.
Buerhaus, P. I., Donelan, K.,...