Nursing ratios are the number one problem in the nursing profession today. Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet to determine what the perfect ratio is.
Legislation has been proposed on the state and national levels to promote ratios, but some of them seem rather arbitrary. In addition, facilities can find ways around the ratios, such as cutting the use of ancillary staff
With that in mind, there are certain criteria that go into making the best decisions when it comes to nursing ratios. These are not the only considerations, but they are a good first step in determining the best practice for setting these vital standards.
Acuity is the number one consideration in ratio development. If you have four patients and they all require total care, you are going to be overwhelmed.
This is the common sense approach to ratios. It takes a human to figure out which patients to assign to which nurse within the parameters of the ratio to make the workload even.
Unfortunately, this often isn’t the case, even without ratios set. Nurses are often overwhelmed with many patients at a high acuity.
The crux of this situation is to limit the number of patients first and then to assign patients with an eye toward how sick they are. Only in this way can we prevent burning out nurses.
Consider ancillary staff
Ancillary staff is another large point of contention when it comes to ratios. Fine, the facilities say, we will give you your ratios, but we will take all of your help away.
Of course, this puts more stress on the nurse, and it basically negates the help that the mandated ratios provide. In order to make ratios work, there must be a provision to include ancillary staff in the mix.
In other words, there should be so many nursing assistants assigned per unit in addition to the number of nurses. Facilities do not want to do this because it means a greater expenditure of money on their end.
Consider morale of staff
One of the intangibles of staffing ratios is the morale of the staff. If nurses are burning out and leaving by the droves, it may be beneficial to employ a ratio system.
This, thought abstract, is an important part of the ratio recipe. Nurses who are overworked with double what they can handle will not work as well, will make mistakes, and will develop a feeling of apathy toward their job.
Ratios are not a panacea, but they can help to improve the morale of a unit. This is an important issue to consider when employing ratios on large and small scales.
If we want nurses to stay in the profession, then we need ratios to increase the morale of the worker. No one wants to come into work and get slammed. Mandated ratios will go a long way to prevent that from happening.