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Nursing Staff Ratios Linked to Patient Health

There is nothing more frustrating as a patient who has been admitted to a hospital than pressing the nurse call button and not getting help. When pain levels are high and the stress of being ill is terrifying, nurses are the link to hope and health.

On the flip side, there is nothing more frustrating for a nurse than having numerous patients demanding your attention while you can only perform one task at a time. As a nurse getting an ADN degree, this is an important issue.

Reporter David Wenner from the Patriot News in Pennsylvania addresses this issue that is currently being analyzed at Carlisle Regional Medical Center. The Department of Health investigated this hospital and found some incidents that are unacceptable for a hospital and are probably more common than we would like to think.

Wenner reports that, “Something approaching a worst-case scenario might have occurred recently at Carlisle Regional Medical Center, where the state painted a frightening picture of conditions that allegedly existed over several weeks in May and June.” 30 patients being cared for by just three nurses, ER patients waiting for hours to be seen once admitted, and nurses fearing for their jobs for reporting the discrepancies were just a few of the problems.

“Dr. David Nash, a nationally known health care-quality expert employed at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, cautioned against hospitals cutting too much. ’In our current environment, we have to be more vigilant than ever about nurse staffing ratios,’ Nash said. ‘A natural cost-cutting avenue is cutting people. We have to be very careful not to cut nurses to save money. It’s a penny-wise, pound-foolish strategy.’”

It has been proven that high nurse to patient ratios have a higher likelihood of patient recovery while lower staffing levels increase patient risk for infection and even death. However, budget cuts are hitting hospitals hard and cutting staff is sometimes one of the hardest decisions that management makes.

Fortunately in California, we have a pretty strict nurse to patient ratio law which is great news for students in an ADN program. While other states are cutting nurses, California hospitals are required to maintain a larger nursing staff. Most units have a 1 to 4 nurse to patient ratio and with an aging population and an increase in chronic conditions, nurses in California will continue to be in demand.

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