This paper provides an argument for why nurse to patient ratios should be improved in hospitals. Many advocating bodies for nurse to patient ratios have lobbied United States Congress and legislatures to enact laws and formulate measures, which will ensure that the working conditions of nurses have improved significantly in hospitals. These measures seek to address the issue of inability of nurses to deliver quality services as the number of patients increase in hospitals. This is because patients are at a risk because of inadequate staffing, which is experienced in several hospitals. This situation may be addressed when staffing ratios are improved such that nurses are able to attend to patients without undue pressure of workload being imposed on them. However, improvement on hospital staffing ratios is associated with an increment in the cost for the hospitals. This means that hospitals have to improve this in order to ensure that patients have the ability of getting quality care and safety.
In the past, the number of patients received in hospitals has increased drastically, which has led to a demand for more nurses. This is because the present nurses have found themselves being overworked as it pertains to attending to these patients and their length of stay in hospitals has increased. Since the quality and safety of health care has a direct relationship to experience and size of nurses, this shows that these two elements have being compromised significantly (Welton, 2007). Further, facilities for inpatient working have become very terrible since the current nurses cannot be able to maintain such facilities effectively and take care of the large number of patients found in hospitals. This situation has compelled state legislatures to consider several measures of increasing the number of nurses in hospitals. Such measures include minimum staffing level for all hospitals irrespective of severity and types of patients in the hospitals.
As the regulatory approach increases the number of nurses, there is a decline or weakness of this body to improve on patient care reimbursement. As such, hospitals have resulted into other measures, which include layoff and decrease of other staff members such as housekeepers and unlicensed personnel involved in provision of assistance services. Hospitals have taken these measures as an effective means for compensating for their losses in revenue. Consequently, the registered nurses have being overburdened since they have to take part in non-nursing tasks, which were previously performed by the non-nursing staff members. This shows that the ratio of nurses to patients has considerably declined. However, this could be counteracted by ensuring that payment to hospitals are directly linked to billing and costs of inpatient nurse care, as well as the hospital reimbursement.
Nurse work overload makes such individuals to attain job dissatisfaction. Consequently, the quality of services, which are received from these individuals are below the acceptable levels. This indicates that there is a need for improving on these ratios, so that the performance output of nurses in hospitals may increase significantly and patients may receive quality and adequate care. This is necessary since the patients feel adverse effects of nursing working environment. This occurs since nurses will provide health care, which is related to the quality of job satisfaction levels.
As the staffing ratio declines, there is a need for adoption of various enforcement measures, which seek to improve on these ratios. This includes the enforcement of fines, which are directed to violation of nurses to patient ratios, and fines on rights of employees and patients’ violation. These fines will act as a means of regulating and ensuring that hospitals have the ability of maintaining the acceptable nurse to patient ratios (Powell, 2003). Consequently, instances for unsafe handling of patients and work overload of nurses will not be visible in hospitals. In addition, nurses will have a chance of attaining economic independence as they conduct their activities and functions in hospitals. This will occur since the gap between registered nurses demand and supply will be reduced to manageable and acceptable levels.
Several initiatives are necessary in order to ensure that hospitals receive adequate nursing staff. These workforce initiatives include Mentorship Projects and Basic Educational Assistance. These initiatives are more directly related to the new nurses who are currently joining the nursing workforce. The initiatives will have an impact of providing a positive perception to new nurses on what is expected in the working environment, as well as encouraging them to improve on individual level performance as it relates to improvement in the quality of services. Moreover, the initiatives will contribute significantly towards providing adequate support to new nurses on how carry out their duties in an effective manner.
An effective means of addressing the issue of nurse to patient ratios would be the improvement of the recruitment process of nurses, so that more nurses are availed in hospitals. On the same note, the hospitals must adopt effective strategies of ensuring that nurses are always retained within their working environment (Blegen et al., 1998). This will eliminate any possibility for nurses to leave an hospital. Consequently, such hospitals will rarely face the situation of nursing understaffing. Moreover, hospitals have to respect the role of nurses. In this, they will ensure that nurses are not involved in other tasks, which are not within the job prescription for nurses. In addition, hospitals should ensure that non-nursing staffing is adequate, so that nurses are never engaged in the process of provision of services beyond their expectations. This will create sufficient and motivating working conditions for nurses, which has an impact of improving the overall individual performance of nurses. As such, the quality and safety of patient health care will be improved in hospitals, as well as nurses to patient ratio will remain to acceptable levels.
Nurses to patient ratios should be increased to ensure that quality services are provided and health care is safe. However, acquisition of more nurses in hospitals will call for higher wages. This is because such wages will be needed in order to pay the new nurses, which will be attracted by hospitals. Nevertheless, as Rothberg and Abraham (2005) argues that a 4:1 is the most suitable and acceptable ratio, which will be cost-effective in the provision of health care services to patients and ensuring that nurses are not overloaded as they perform their duties. With regard to optimal level for hospital nurse staffing, this is a matter, which is directly related to what the society is willing to pay for such nurses. As such, more nurses may be employed provided that the society has the ability and potential to pay such nurses for their services. Therefore, there is a need for an increment in the nurse to patient ratios in order to protect the quality and safety of health care.
Blegen, MA, Goode, J, &Reed, L. (1998). “Nurse staffing and patient outcomes.
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Rothberg, M, & Abraham, I. (2005). “Improving Nurse-to-Patient Staffing Ratios
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Welton, J. (2007). “Mandatory Hospital Nurse to Patient Staffing Ratios: Time to Take a
Different Approach,” Mandatory Nurse to Patient Ratios, 1 (12).