Nurse-Staffing Ratio’s: What it is

What is a staffing ratio anyway?!

A nurse-staffing ratio refers to the number of hospitalized patients to whom one licensed nurse is assigned. For example, 1 nurse assigned the care of 8 patients would create a 1:8 nurse-staffing ratio.

How many patients for whom one nurse can care is a controversial issue. Each of the players – the patient, the hospital and the nurse – take a stance and most often these stances are at odds with each other. While we would like to think the employee (nurse) and the employer (hospital) stand united in a mutual bond of loyalty and gratitude to serve the patient, they do not.

By law and through licensure, the individual nurse is required to advocate for the safety and well being of their patients at all times. The hospital has no such licensed relationship with the nurse. Nurses are employees. They are a workforce, in the hospital’s mind, plain and simple. Hospital leadership tends to treat nurses from a belief that ‘if the nurses were good employees, they would not question the authority of the employer and they certainly would not attempt to end-run the employer by appealing to congressional leaders with their complaints.’

Patients, on the other hand, view their nurse as the provider of all bedside care at their personal demand and under direction/command of their physician. A patient and their family hold the nurse personally responsible for the good and the bad care they receive. (When the care is sub-optimal, they will complain to their doctor.) The patients could care less (and rightly so) how many other patients their nurse has been assigned as long as he/she is promptly available when they ring their bell. The hospital, the patient believes, is blameless when it comes to the provision of nursing care – tending to believe instead that ‘The nurses are employees of the physicians.’

The following links continue to present some of the facts in non-medico-speak terms to unveil the points that make this topic such a hotbed of contention for the professionals and patients involved. To bring the most clarity and attention to the cause of nurse-staffing ratios, the general public should have a working knowledge of the situation. …It is their healthcare we are discussing after all.

As always, your comments, inclusions, arguments, and corrections are welcome.