States should mandate nurse-to-patient ratio in hospitals
I have been learning about the stressful workplaces nurses must suffer in on a daily basis. Arnold Bakker mentioned a term called “burnout” in the nursing profession in his paper, “Effort-reward imbalance and burnout among nurses.” The term refers to how nurses feel unappreciated and are exhausted from the heavy workload and hours in the hospitals they work in. Burnout, in turn, may lead to feelings of depression and tiredness, often leading to sloppier work and, thus, more mistakes in hospitals. In fact, according to a survey done at the American Organization of Nurse Executives, 57 percent of nurses said workloads were not distributed evenly in the previous year, with 54 percent saying they had excessive workload.
A simple solution to this problem can be drawn from California’s mandated staffing ratio. California is the only state that has a state-mandated nurse-to-patient ratio for hospitals. According to Linda Aiken’s paper “Implications of the California Nurse Staffing Mandate for Other States,” Californian nurses had one less patient to take care of on average than other states that don’t have the mandate. Lower ratios were associated with lower mortality rates. Nurse burnout and job dissatisfaction were also reported to be lower. If more states were to implement state-mandated nurse-to-patient ratios, not only would we reduce nurse burnout, but we may also lower the mortality rate and improve the quality of healthcare performed by nurses.
Kyung Lim is a 2012 Rutgers University alumnus.