Some nurses call it “nurse-to-patient ratios.” Others call it “safe staffing” or “patient limits.” No matter how we label the concept, registered nurses across the United States and, indeed, the globe understand the need to set a minimum number of nurses to safely care for a certain number of patients, with adjustments to increase nurse staffing based on patient acuity. Staffing decisions made by hospital administrators based on budgetary rather than clinical considerations do not ensure patients are receiving optimal care.
As a science-based profession nurses know better, as a holistic-based profession nurses understand the need for individualized patient care. We know that a lower assignment of patients means more time spent with each patient , time to comfort, time to monitor and assess for subtle changes, time to intervene, educate a patient, time to thoroughly explain the course of treatment, and reassure a worried family member. We became nurses to help people, and safe staffing plays an integral role in us fulfilling our caring mission.
Every patient deserves a single standard of high-quality care. Decades of research have documented how safe staffing reduces patient mortality, re-admission to the hospital post discharge, and recovery.Ratios, coupled with nurses’ powerful voice of advocacy, secured in California law and regulation, and in our union contracts, protect our patients from complications that arise from missed care such as medical errors, health care disparities, infections, and so much more.