Many nurses face the issue of understaffing and having too much of a workload during one shift. When a unit is understaffed not only do the nurses get burnt out, but the patients also don’t receive the care they deserve. The nurse-patient ratio is an aspect that gets overlooked in many facilities that could lead to possible devastating errors. Nurse- patient ratio issues have been a widely studied topic and recently new changes have been made to improve the problem.
Identifying and maintaining the appropriate number of mixed nursing staff, RN/LPN/CNA, is critical to the delivery of quality patient care. Many studies reveal an association between a higher level of experienced RN staffing and lower rates of adverse patient outcomes (“Nurse staffing plans,” 2013). The nurse-patient ratios will in turn improve the nurses working conditions, decreasing the risk of errors to patients.
The first step is for the hospitals to have a nurse driven staffing committee, which will create staffing plans that reflect that needs of the patient population and match the skills and experience of the staff for each shift. The second approach is for legislators to mandate specific nurse-patient ratios in legislation or regulation. The third approach would be a requiring of facilities to disclose staffing levels to the public and/or a regulatory body.
On April 17th 2013, Senator Barbara Boxer (California) introduced a federal bill that is aimed to reduce nursing shortages by establishing a minimum nurse-to-patient ration in hospitals. She is also ordering whistleblowing protection for nurses who report quality-of-care violations. The law requires that every hospital implement a written hospital-wide staffing plan that will guide the assignments to the nursing staff. It will also provide minimum RN-to-patient staffing needs for each inpatient care unit within the hospital (Fitzpatrick, Anen & Soto, 2013). Laws like these are being implemented and changed widely across the United States to help ensure patients are receiving adequate care that they deserve.
The American Nurses Association supports a legislative model in which nurses are encouraged to create staffing plans specific to each unit. This approach will aide in establishing staffing levels that are flexible and can be changed based on the patients needs, number of admissions to the unit, discharges and transfers during each shift (“Nurse staffing plans,” 2013). This model will assist in keeping the unit staffed appropriately and organized in need of a change during each shift. Without an organized plan like this, a nurse may be required to take on a new admission and already have too big of a workload.
Each facility has their specific way of scheduling and protocol for staffing; not every facility uses a model that has other nurses’ help decide the next shifts nursing assignment. Some places will have a separate person makes the assignments and determine which nurse will get which patients during each...