Patient to Nurse Ratio

Patient to Nurse Ratio


Patient to Nurse Ratio

Patientto Nurse Ratio

Reducepatient to nurse ratio improve patient outcome

Nursingis one of the most integral parts of the health care system. However,the nurse to patient ration can have significant impacts on thequality of health care. The ratio to patient ratio in a health carefacility and the health care system in general is one of the mostimportant staffing issues in the health care system. The nursepatient ratio has a direct impact on the safety of nurses as well astheir patients, mortality rate, nurse’s burnout and in the longrun, job satisfaction among nurses. Adequate nursing in a healthfacility and the health care system in general is essential inretaining nurses, encouraging more young people to join theprofession and improved patient outcome. On the other hand,inadequate staffing endangers the welfare, safety and health of thepatients, in addition to negatively affecting the morale of nursesand the nursing profession in general. According to Dean et al(2013), a nurse to patient ration of more that eight patients pernurse on a regular basis is dangerous and have a negative impact onboth the patient and the nurse. With the increased demand for healthcare services, there are an increased number of patients visitinghealth care facilities. Over the years, the increase the number ofpatients has not been proportional to the increase in the number ofhealth care professionals. As the baby boomers mature, coupled withthe changes in lifestyles that increases the risk of terminaldiseases and increases the number of health complications, the demandfor nursing services has increased significantly (Dean et al, 2013).

Ahigh number of patients relative to the number of nurses in a healthcare facility are associated with an increased risk of burnout.Studies suggest that due to the disproportionately low number ofnurses and high number of patients in the modern health care system,the nursing profession has the highest risk of burnout. This hasresult into a major human resources crisis in the nursing profession,since majority of health care facilities are unable to retain nurses.Burnout is a complex phenomenon that has an impact on the ability ofa nurse to perform his or her responsibility. Some of the nurses topatient ratio issues that contribute to nurse’s burnout includesprostrations due to long working hours and exhaustion, inadequatetime to plan for more effective work schedules, more demandingnursing roles, low confidence on the ability to reach the desiredresults, and hysterical working environment (Aikenet al, 2002).The high level of burnout among nurses in medical facilities isassociated with overwhelming stress among nurses. Majority ofregistered nurses complain about burnout, which is characterized bychronic fatigue, headache, depression, insomnia and backache amongothers. As the number of patients in the health care facilities andmedical care issues becomes more complicated, there is an increasedshortage of nurses. With the same pay, nurses are having moreresponsibilities, longer working hours and a larger workload. Thishas a significant effect on the morale and declining jobsatisfaction. According to Aikenetal (2002), increased emotional exhaustion and burnout among nurses isstrongly associated with nurse to patient ratios in the health caresystem. These factors have an important influence on nurses’ jobsatisfaction. Studies indicate that odd rations are associated withhigh burnout scores and his job dissatisfaction.

Inaddition to increased burnout scores among nurses as a result of oddnurse to patient ratio in the health care facilities, it is alsoassociated with increase nurses and patient risks. The effects ofincreased workload have a direct impact on the ability of nurses toperform their duties effectively resulting into increased risks.Overworking and long working hours among nurses is associated withmusculoskeletal problems and increased risk of depression andhypertension. The health impacts directly affect their productivityor availability, thus worsening the situation. According to Aikenetal (2002), odd nurse to patient ratios is associated with increasedpatient risks and high mortality rate. The negative effects ofstaffing challenges in the nursing profession impacts on the abilityof perform critical functions effectively. For example, there is ahuge relationship between the failure of nurses to rescue and oddnurse to patient rations in medical facilities. The increasedmortality rate had a direct impact on the morale and job satisfactionamong nurses.

Themost effective solution to the staffing issues in the nursingprofession is a mandatory nurse to patient ratio in the health carefacilities. This will effectively increase the ability of the nursingprofessional to retain nurses, make nursing an attractive career tostudents and lure registered nurses who have left the profession backto nursing. In addition to increasing the quality of hospital care, amandatory safe staffing ratio will solve some of the human resourceschallenges such as shortage of nurses (MacPhee et al, 2006). However,this is a long term solution. There are some short term solutions,although there effectiveness is limited. This includes mandatoryovertime compensation for nurses. To curb the high employee turnoverin the nursing profession, for the government and health carefacilities to corroborate in the training, recruitment and retentionof nurses. For example, enhancing training programs andinfrastructures, in-service training, and career growth can have apositive impact on nursing staffing challenges. This will improve thejob satisfaction, increase the number of nurses joining theprofession, improve on the nurse patient ratio and eliminateoverworking and burnouts.


Aiken,L. et al (2002). “Hospital Nurse Staffing and Patient Mortality,Nurse Burnout, and Job Dissatisfaction”. JAMA288(16), p 1987-1993.

Dean,E., Gillen, S. &amp Duffin, C. (2013). “Dangerous staffing leveldefined as more than eight patients per nurse”. NursingStandard,27(30): 5.

MacPheeM., Ellis J. &amp McCutheon A. S. (2006). “Nurse staffing andpatient safety”. CanadianNurse,102 (8): 18-23.