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I guess before your questions can really be addressed, we need to know more about your situation.
I am also in a rural community hosp, we staff 2 RN 7Ato11P, one from 11-7, our volume (about 10,000/yr) is usually low enough to accomodate, we do have some back up in house for emergency help.
It's not how you staff, but what is your average census, how do you provide back up support for the much above average times? You need some support available.
If your support is non-RN staff, they should be trained as to their scope of care in the department and all staff RNs should be able to delegate appropriatly to supervise their assistance. Too often a helper comes to ER and takes care of a patient without ER nurse supervision because the ER nurse is so used to one on one care that it becomes difficult to switch into a supervisor/team leader role.
When things get busy M-F, most often a manager is around, or I pull a Specialty Nurse from the clinic, and after 4PM is an on-call nurse. Things can get interesting on the weekend when I only have an on-call nurse. Of course, if the floor nurse isn't busy, she can help with IV starts, etc.
If I had to guess where to cut, I'd say we had way too managers, and our education coordinator seems to have little output. But, of course since management runs the budget, we have little hope of cutting anyone from the top.