Nurse-Patient Ratios

Posted by MANSPresident on April 5, 2016 at 12:15 AM

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by your patient load? And made an error or forgot to complete a task as a result? You are not alone! Nurse-to-patient ratio has been a hot topic of conversation for a while yet continues to create issues. This topic area perked my interest upon researching evidence regarding its safety implications on patient outcomes for a school project.

Working in an acute setting, nurses are surrounded in a stressful environment as they meet the needs of the patient and provider, and carry out patient specific tasks (i.e. assessments, medications, discharge, etc). Adding additional patients to nurse's workload forces nurses to find ways to take short cuts and decreases time spent with patients. This becomes an issue when nurses can not perform their tasks correctly or not at all. Nurses neglect to carry out safety protocols set by the unit/hospital and put the already vulnerable patient at increase risk for adverse events. In fact, units with low nurse-to-patient ratios show increase rates of patient falls, hospitalization time, and infections (Belegan et. al., 2011). Additionally, medication administration errors can occur and contribute to the 1.5 million patients yearly who encounter a medication error (ION, 2006). High patient ratios not only pose risk to the patient but also the nurse as it increases nursing fatigue and turnover rates.

What can you do about this? Nursing students are at the forefront in creating change! As the next generation of nurses we need to be aware of these issues, confront, and create a solution for the problem! Students should check out the American Nurses Association's thoughts (link below) on patient ratios and how to effectively solve this problem. The solution lies within nurses! Together we must look at a variety of factors including the unit, patient, and nurses to decrease patient load in order to increase patient outcomes.

Check out what the ANA says about patient outcomes:

Check out what current nurses are saying about the issue on Facebook by joining the Nurses for National Patient Ratios!


Blegen, M., Goode, C., Spetz, J., Vaughn, T., & Park, S. (2011). Nurse staffing effects on patient outcomes: safety-net and non-safety-net hospitals. Medical Care, 49(4), 406-414 9p.

Institute of Medicine. 2006. Report Brief: Preventing Medication Errors. Retrieved from:


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