The Controversy in Nurse to Patient Staffing Ratios

Recently, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf met with nurses and said he supports them in their goal to limit the number of patients nurses must care for at once.  Nurses have been complaining that the high number of patients that they are responsible for has a direct impact on the care that they are able to provide.  Being short-staffed and having heavy workloads leads to burnout, and creates a high level of turnover in the profession.

Only one state, California, currently has a law that requires a specific ratio of patients to nurses at five to one.  It’s worked well for them too, with nursing license applications increasing and nursing vacancies plummeting.

Critics of staffing requirements believe that they will cause staffing shifts to be less flexible and will cause an increase in hiring costs, which will eventually translate into a higher cost of care for patients.  While previous studies have indicated that mortality rates increased seven percent for each additional case assigned to a nurse, opponents believe that these studies are outdated, and staffing ratios can’t be dealt with using a one size fits all approach.

Others believe, though, that increased staffing ratios will actually result in a net gain for hospitals.  While there is an upfront cost, there are significant savings to be found in these higher staffing levels, which create better patient outcomes, resulting in fewer expenditures for line items like Medicare penalties.

Regardless of the difference in opinion several state bills have been proposed that could change the face of staffing levels.  In Massachusetts, it could be individual voters deciding on the fate of staffing ratios as a proposed ballot question would take the issue out of the hands of lawmakers.

Extract isn’t in the business of recommending staffing levels, but we do want to ensure nurses and doctors are used efficiently.  This is why we automate manual incoming document processes to deliver data to the EMR faster and more accurately.  We believe that clinicians should be able to spend less time with clerical work or waiting for information and more time caring for patients.

If you’d like to learn more about how we do this, please reach out today.

About the Author: Chris Mack

Chris is a Marketing Manager at Extract with experience in product development, data analysis, and both traditional and digital marketing.  Chris received his bachelor’s degree in English from Bucknell University and has an MBA from the University of Notre Dame.  A passionate marketer, Chris strives to make complex ideas more accessible to those around him in a compelling way.