Nurses providing direct patient care are challenged on a daily basis to balance the needs of each of their patients, while striving to achieve the best patient outcomes. Meanwhile, acuity can vary greatly from one patient to the next patient. The variance of care each patient requires often makes it a challenge to match each nurse with a workload that is manageable. There are many negative consequences that can occur when nurses are required to work with high workloads, such as a nurse-to-patient ratio of 1:8.
Consequences of high nurse workloads can involve many different aspects of the nurses’ life, but it can also have dire effects on the patients’ lives to whom it is the nurse’s responsibility it is to care. Nurses can experience job dissatisfaction and burn out, which in return can cause an increase in the nursing shortage and further exacerbate the problem. At the same time, patients can experience decreased safety and even higher rates of mortality, due to the increased demands upon their nurses.
Increased workloads can have a negative effect on how a nurse feels about their job, thus eventually leading nurses to become dissatisfied with their work. According to Patterson, “Those with the highest patient caseloads were more than twice as likely to experience job related burnout, and almost twice as likely to be dissatisfied ...
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...ese factors, cost is primary concern that would greatly impact the ability to set mandated ratio in many states. Future research is needed to provide an in-depth analysis of the cost related to decreasing nurse-to-patient ratios, while taking any factors into consideration. An alternate approach requiring monetary and other support may be considered.
In conclusion, a mandated nurse-to-patient ratio of 1:4 in medical and surgical units potentially has many positive effects on patient’s quality of care, outcomes, and risk of mortality. These ratios also have a great effect on nurses, as they decrease the workload. Therefore, increasing nurse retention and in the future this may in turn cause an increase in nurse recruitment.
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