Impact of Nurse-to-Patient Ratios

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The economic impact on healthcare has taken its toll on the number of registered nurses providing bedside care to patients, compromising patient safety and dramatically increasing the potential for negative outcomes. Several factors have immensely contributed to the nursing shortages over the years, including healthcare organizations downsizing, increased workloads, inadequate staffing plans and job dissatisfaction. Mandated nurse-to-patient staffing ratios have been implemented in several states to date with many more trying to pass some type of legislation. Have these ratios affected the quality of care or is it more realistic to create staffing committees that are based on each unit’s unique situation and varying requirements?

Skyrocketing medical costs are some of the challenges being faced by hospitals today and among their major expenses are nursing labor costs. The burden of reduced spending and managing costs more efficiently is being placed more and more on hospital finance leaders with the expectancy of reduced reimbursements under the healthcare reform (Sanford 38+). Healthcare institutions, especially hospitals, argued that reducing the number of registered nurses and diluting the skill mix would not lower care standards, albeit nurses voiced otherwise (Hunt 18). Yes it is true, for years the debate amongst all sides regarding the best mix and right numbers and how much direct bedside care is considered the registered nurses’ responsibility, but the most critical issue of all, is that nurses want to ensure high quality care and the best possible patient outcomes.

At the peak of restructuring of American hospitals, nurses were deeply concerned about their patients’ welfare as well as their own ability to survive in t...

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