December 14, 2017

It is Time to Implement Federal Nurse Ratios

It is Time to Implement Federal Nurse Ratios

Despite overwhelming support for proposed Federal RN ratios from nurses who have been in the trenches and experienced firsthand the stress and problems that can arise from assigning too many patients to single nurse, the future of these bills seems uncertain.

For too long, nurses have had to work under extreme conditions where hospitals consider it acceptable to assign a double-digit number of patients to a single nurse.

Instead of providing nurses with the support they need to work to the best of their abilities, hospitals have continued to put budgetary concerns ahead of staff and patients. The result is poor patient care and nurses who quickly become disillusioned and burnt out.

The future of nursing and quality healthcare will require nurses to actively advocate for themselves and their patients.  

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While implementing standard nurse to patient ratios across the country seems like a commonsense solution to overworked nurses and subpar patient care, the business of healthcare has successfully managed to thwart any regulatory efforts.

Sadly, nurses have been dealing with unsafe patient ratios for so long that they have little hope for real change when it comes to nurse to patient ratios. As one Instagram follower put it: “It’s sad how unrealistic this seems.” After encountering so much resistance to regulations, there seems to be little hope that these regulations will become a reality.

There is Power in Numbers

Part of the problem is that nurses feel like they are alone in their fight to improve working conditions.

There are state and national organizations who are working to pass federals laws, but all too often, nurses feel isolated and discouraged from raising concerns for fear that they will be reprimanded or lose their jobs.

It is essential that we organize and present a united front for supporting federal regulations and reasonable ratios that put that put patients and nurses first.

Regulations Should Apply to RNs and LPNs

Another key step to unifying nurses would be to create nurse ratios that include LPNs and other vital care providers. Federal ratios should not be limited to RNs. As Mackinzie McClure asked, “Why differentiate RN vs LPN and not just say nurse to patient ratio? Plenty of bus LPNs fill many of the listed roles, would these ratios also not apply to us?”

LPNs are subjected to the same unsafe working conditions, which means that any laws should include their concerns. Passing RN ratios would be a step in the right direction, but we should not settle for a partial solution.

Acuity-Based Staffing is Essential

Hospitals and nurses should also work together to create an acuity-based staffing system that will help to create reasonable nurse ratios while also helping the hospital to run more efficiently.

In the past, simple checklists have been used to rate the acuity of patients and make sure that patients receive specialized care. Today, sophisticated software programs can speed up the process and streamline scheduling and communication among charge nurses and staff.

Utilizing this information can help hospitals make the most of staff, allow charge nurses to make appropriate scheduling decisions and assignments and ensure that patients well cared for.

In an ideal world, hospitals would be the ones to advocate for their nurses and patients. Unfortunately, healthcare has become profit driven and lacking in compassion, which means that it is up to nurses to organize, unite and push for federal regulations that can be enforced.

While many are skeptical about whether these ratios will become law in the near future, there is hope and the more nurses speak up and out about the importance of patient care, the more likely lawmakers are to make the right decision and stop being influenced by pressure from healthcare providers.

Next Up: 2018 Transition To eNLC and Multi-state Licensure: What You Need To Know