Making the nursing profession safer is a long-standing challenge and one that continues to impact patient safety and nurse satisfaction levels. In fact, in our latest Nurses Week study, nurse respondents named “make it safer” as the second biggest thing they would change about the nursing profession, followed by “solve the nursing shortage.”
In truth, nurses have been calling for safer staffing ratios to make the workplace safer for decades. Reduced nursing budgets, the growing nursing shortage and an aging population are all resulting in a low staff-to-patient ratio in most healthcare facilities. As a result, more nurses are putting in longer work hours and overtime to compensate for staff shortages.
In recent studies, the American Nurses Association reports:
50% of all nurse’s state they have insufficient time with their patients.
43% report increased overtime
54% report excessive workloads
96% of nurses start a shift fatigued
33% say they experience inadequately staffed units for patient acuity levels
Furthermore, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices says nurses who work longer hours are at increased risk for medication errors and failure to notice changes in their patients’ clinical condition.
Hope on the Horizon
One of the most promising solutions to making it safer for nurses and patients is the enactment of mandated staffing ratios legislation. While progress has been small and slow, there are two national bills set to appear before the Senate and the House that appear encouraging.
Nursing Staffing Standards for Hospital Patient Safety and Quality Care Act (S.1063)
This bill seeks to mandate nurse to patient ratios, especially in acute care situations. The act also seeks to empower nurses by obligating RNs to act in the best interest of the patient and advocate for patients without regard to bureaucratic and budgetary concerns or fear of being reprimanded for putting the patient first.
Nurse Staffing Standards for Hospital Patient Safety and Quality Care Act (H.R.2392)
This proposed bill also recognizes the fact that nurses are often put in difficult situations where they are pressured to care for too many patients, which results in poorer care overall. The bill seeks to remove these external pressures and allow nurses and patients to benefit from safe care ratios. In addition, the bill is designed to clearly dictate that nurses should always put the well-being of the patient above all other concerns.
Nurses have the potential to lead the way in improving healthcare for all, but it requires a work environment that is safe, empowering and satisfying. If you are interested in advocating for nurse to patient staffing ratios and legislation, you can check out this Nurse.org Safe Staffing Action Kit.