Published Sep 13, 1999
I read so much about nurse/patient ratios being so high. Are the ratios higher in certain settings (smaller hospitals vs. larger hospitals) than others or is this just a universal problem in all settings? Also, are there certain specialties where the nurse/patient ratios are not so much of a problem? Thanks!
I have been in nursing for 13 years, in positions from staff nurse to management. Based on my experiences, I can honestly say that every facility I've ever worked with has nurses dealing with occasional periods of high nurse-patient ratios. The ratios depend on so many things--patient accuity/type of care, instability of census, nursing turnover (if there are more vacancies, than there are less nurses to go around!) and care delivery method (managed care nursing vs. team-leading, etc.) Anyway, to make a long story short--when you are interviewing for potential jobs after you get out of school, make sure and ask that very important question. How the interviewer responds will tell you a lot, not just about ratios, but how that particular floor handles fluctuations in ratio. The good news??? Throughout my nursing, I have rarely run across a situation that was not manageable, at least on a temporary basis. It's overwhelming at first, but once you hunker down and start prioritizing, some semblance of order usually returns. Of course, this is not to say that frequent high nurse/patient ratios should not be addressed. Just remember that as your knowledge and skills increase, so will your ability to cope with occasional stressful periods.
I recently transferred from ER to a large IMC unit. The stress in the area is much different and the ratio so much better. I had to learn a whole new world of nursing but once I got the routine down I feel that the ratio of six patients to two Nurses is fair. Sometimes we may have seven to two but it is tolerable. We also look at difficult patients and try not to overload one team. Compared to the ratios in the ER which goes anywhere from six patients to twelve patients to two nurses depending on the day I feel alot better about my care I'm able to give my patients. I also feel less tired at the end of the day and don't feel like I have neglected certain patients for my critical one.
I graduated from school this past December. I have worked in two facilities so far on the day shift and have averaged 7-8 patients. I think that the main reason for this is staffing. Both facilites were greatly understaffed. It's something to look into when you interview. Good Luck!
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