I've been that nurse struggling to give the best possible care to way too many patients. It's demoralizing. It hurts. It's not why any of us went into the profession: Sure, I want to spend 8 or 12 hours struggling to keep 9 plates in the air balanced on one leg in the midst of buzzing alarms, ringing phones, jabbering visitors, griping family members, demanding doctors, and the whirling specter of all the paperwork I have yet to begin while some poor soul down the hall keeps croaking, "I need help, is anyone there?" Oh, the joys of "patient-centered" care in a for-profit system!
The question is, what do we do? We keep coming up with studies and models to prove that you need x number of certified or licensed staff to care for x number of patients with x levels of acuity--and we're still treading water in exactly the same place. How is that possible? The patients aren't happy about it either, but no one wearing brass seems capable of concluding exactly what you said--Happy nurses mean happy patients.
Where I'm currently working, patients are expected to pay over $600/day for basic care, room, and board--yes, it's a specialty hospital, but it isn't THAT special; especially when we're chronically understaffed, and the people who ARE working are on their 15th hour of the day or 68th hour of the week. Are these people really getting what they're paying for? I think the basic problem lies in where that money is actually going--ie, not into MY pocket, or the pockets of the grossly overworked aides, housekeepers, and kitchen staff. It isn't fair--to anyone.
End of rant.