Safe Patient Ratios Are Important for Travel Clinicians: RNs, LPNs, & CNAs

Safe Patient Ratios Are Important for Travel Clinicians: RNs, LPNs, & CNAs

Travel Nurses Are Needed to Help Understaffing Issues

If there’s one thing we’ve talked about a lot in the last year, you’d be hard-pressed to say anything other than “coronavirus” or “pandemic”. True enough, that has largely dominated media content, including our own. However, the topic we’d like to bring forward this week is also a familiar one to nurses: understaffing. Understaffing and high patient-to-nurse ratios have been a topic in our industry since before the pandemic and unfortunately continue to be a concern.

Staffing shortages are correlated to poor patient outcomes according to numerous studies. And really, can that be surprising? It makes a certain kind of sense that when anyone, in any profession is understaffed that their work quality will suffer. Unfortunately, in this industry, the consequences of high patient ratios can and routinely do have very real, and painful effects including but not limited to:

  • infections
  • bedsores
  • pneumonia
  • MRSA
  • cardiac arrest
  • accidental death

In fact, one study in 2016 concluded that patients recovering from cardiac arrest in-hospital were 16% less likely to survive in hospitals that had “poor nursing work conditions”. Another study in 2012 shows that when hospital nurses are overworked (13 plus hour shifts), patients are much less likely to recommend the hospital to others when compared to hospitals where nurses work 11-hour shifts or less.

Understaffing Correlates to Nurse Emotional and Physical Health Concerns

The negative consequences of high nurse-to-patient ratios bear unwelcome fruit in nurses as well. Burnout, emotional exhaustion, dissatisfaction with work are all emotional consequences that can manifest physically in terms of weight gain, depression, headaches, high blood pressure, insomnia to name a few common offenders.

One study in 1998-99 found that for each patient per nurse over a 4:1 patient-nurse ratio, a 23% increase in the likelihood of burnout was associated. Nurses who work in understaffed conditions often are encouraged or even required by employers to work overtime. While the bump in pay may seem worthwhile occasionally, beware. This study concluded that overtime work is related to an increased risk of incidents of heart disease of up to 60% higher than those who did not work overtime

Nurses in Worcester, Massachusetts on Strike Over Patient Ratios

Nurses unions frequently negotiate with hospitals and healthcare systems on the very issue of nurse-to-patient ratios. Currently, in Worcester nurses are on strike, and have been going on five weeks. In spite of the lengthy strike, they seem more united than ever, and their families have been showing up in support. In fact, the Easter bunny seems to have made a visit. While the hospital’s CEO Carolyn Jackson says, the union is being impractical, they continue to hold out for lower nurse-to-patient ratios.

Despite lower nurse-to-patient ratios seeming to be a common issue for negotiation between nursing unions and healthcare centers or hospitals, the data supports that lower nurse-to-patient ratios do not detract from the facility’s profits. A study in the Journal of Health Care Finance found that the increase in nurse staff did not decrease a hospital’s profitability. So, while it does cost more to have more regular nurse staff, the improved quality of patient care and quicker patient recoveries offset the cost of an increase in nursing staff.

Travel Nurses Are a Solution to Understaffing Issues

While understaffing remains an issue, and nurse-to-patient ratios are often higher than nurses prefer, we posit that the problem is at least a bit more complex than healthcare systems and hospitals wanting to save money by hiring fewer nurses.

Nurse shortages are impacting our industry. Lack of nurse educators to create more available slots in nursing colleges’ classrooms nationwide, means appropriate candidates for nursing school are turned down.

In 2017 over 56,000 nursing school applicants were denied entry, not due to their lack of qualifications, but due to the lack of faculty. Every year the vacancy rate for nurse educators is higher than 7%. For ten years prior to 2017, nationwide nursing schools are rejecting on an annual basis around 30,000 qualified applicants. This all happening amid the backdrop of the aging baby boomer generation, and now on top of it, a global pandemic.

As a result, hospitals, long-term care facilities, skilled nursing facilities, medical centers, surgery centers, and other healthcare settings are turning to temporary nurses or travel nurses to fill vacancies. These temporary or travel nurses constitute between five and 15% of nursing staff, and earn much higher pay rates than the regular staff nurses, sometimes earning as much as 40% more than an average RN pay rate.

Do You Want to Be a Travel Nurse?

Are you a nurse who struggles with job dissatisfaction? Are you on your way to burnout, or emotional exhaustion? We urge you not to leave the profession entirely! Nurses are needed, instead of giving up after all your dedication, your money, and your time that you’ve invested, come work as a travel nurse with Elite Specialty Staffing.

Travel nursing is a great way for skilled nurses to put their skills to use in a way that allows them changes in geography, changes of work setting, and changes in routine. You can embark on a new path, within your chosen profession that can change your life, for the better.

Travel nursing can create opportunities for you to further your career. If you want to specialize, tell our recruiter about it and they can prioritize looking for contracts that would allow you to earn the necessary contact hours.

There are personal benefits to becoming a travel nurse as well. Take a look at my post, “9 Cons and Pros of Being a Travel Nurse” for an honest look at the job, and then reach out to us! Our comprehensive benefits in addition to lucrative pay packages will leave you wondering why you didn’t do this sooner.