The shortage of nursing professionals in the US healthcare system is a significant problem as it puts patient safety at risk and is associated with increased healthcare costs. Imbalanced patient-to-nurse ratios are positively correlated with an elevated rate of patient mortality, adverse side effects, medical errors, and longer hospital stay (Morioka, Tomio, Seto, & Kobayashi, 2017). A failure to ensure a proper level of patient safety can be extremely expensive for hospitals. Even though staffing may be expensive as well, and a higher number of nurses hired means greater amounts are spent for salaries, expenses for nursing resources are hard to compare to massive costs that may be induced by the poor quality of care. Therefore, improvements in patient-to-nurse ratios can substantially benefit hospitals in terms of both patient and financial outcomes.
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I think that the introduction of mandated patient-nurse ratios and the improvement of workplace environments can help address the problem of the nurse shortage more effectively than increased funding for education. Nowadays, a large number of high-quality education programs exist and, although nurses are encouraged to attain higher educational levels, they may enter into the profession without a bachelor’s degree. In my opinion, this system and the overall quality of education at the present moment add to the development of the workforce and contribute to the resolution of the shortage issue.
On the contrary, many hospitals still fail to provide healthcare practitioners with adequate work environments. As a result of improper patient-to-nurse ratios, professionals are exposed to excessive workloads and other job stresses, which may strengthen one’s intention to leave the profession (Hämmig, 2018). In the past, I also had a chance of working in a hospital where a patient-nurse ratio could reach approximately 10:1 during some shifts. Luckily, I did not witness any serious medical errors and cases of patient neglect, yet the whole situation put extreme pressure on all team members. Some miscommunications took place frequently and, for this reason, the work process was not as efficient and effective as it was intended to be. Moreover, the inability to handle the excess workload and meet high professional standards at the same time caused a feeling of dissatisfaction with own performance and the workplace as such. This experience proves that poorly balanced patient-to-nurse ratios can contribute to the problem of workforce shortage. There is a need to tackle it at the policy level through the introduction of mandatory standards.
Hämmig, O. (2018). Explaining burnout and the intention to leave the profession among health professionals – A cross-sectional study in a hospital setting in Switzerland. BMC Health Services Research, 18(1), 785.
Morioka, N., Tomio, J., Seto, T., & Kobayashi, Y. (2017). The association between higher nurse staffing standards in the fee schedules and the geographic distribution of hospital nurses: A cross-sectional study using nationwide administrative data. BMC Nursing, 16, 25.