jlc: One RN and one unit clerk for nine patients? There are so many things wrong with this I don't know where to start. The safety issue is primary; not only for the 2(YIKES!) staff involved but also for the patients. I can't even imagine what would happen if you had a situation with a patient escalating or even a medical emergency. Here is a link to the APNA site and their position paper on staffing. http://www.apna.org/papers/position_paper8.htm
Don't expect a strict by-the-numbers solution here: I have never been convinced that ratios are the only way to go because I think they reduce nursing to a rigid number system and don't take into account the wide variations in acuity. You might want to check out the ANA site http://www.nursingworld.org
and just do a search on staffing ratios.
Beyond the safety issue, I have to wonder how you have any time at all to work with the patients. Do you do groups or 1:1 interventions? What about teaching? And meds? I would think that your administration would be concerned with the quality of care being provided. Health care is competitive, a savvy patient is going to go elsewhere if they are treated poorly. I can't even imagine how you are able to do even basic care with that ludicrous staffing plan. Is it similar on med surg?
On my unit, for 9 patients and above, we have four licensed persons, and the flexibility to up that if the unit is particularly active. On 7-3, in addition to the 4 licensed people (we only have RNs and LPNs) we have a unit clerk, OT, case manager and social worker. One of the licensed staff does UR as well as a patient assignment. On 3-11, we have only the 4 lic. staff, no unit clerk. In addition, one of the RNs is assigned emergency assessments and also has a patient assignment. Admissions are unpredictable, so sometimes that nurse is very busy, other times nothing. Again though, if we are getting overwhelmed with admissions, we can call another person to come in.
I hope this helps a little bit. Keep advocating for yourself and for your patients. Do you have a nurse manager? Get all your arguments together and make an appointment to see her/him. If that doesn't work, go higher. This isn't fair to nursing staff, and it sure isn't fair to patients. PM me if you have any other questions, and good luck.