Overloaded nurses to management: 'You cannot fix it with a pizza day'

Nurse leaders are speaking out against unsafe patient ratios, according to an Oct. 7 article from nursing.com. 

As staffing shortages continue to plague the healthcare system, nurses are struggling under increased patient loads. California is the only state with maximum nurse-patient ratios, so many hospitals adjust for themselves, according to the article. However, overloading nurses can worsen care outcomes. A University of Pennsylvania study found that the odds of 30-day mortality increase by 16 percent for every patient added to a nurse's caseload, the article said. 

Overloading nurses has negative outcomes for individual workers and their organizations, the article said. Nurses may experience burnout, take more absences and turn over at a higher rate. Their hospitals could notice increases in medication errors, stay lengths, falls, infections, injuries and even death rates. 

"We're left with a revolving door — we're hemorrhaging nurses. Nurse leaders say that they're five nurses away from total chaos, and that is very distressing," Cindy Bacon, PhD, RN, associate professor and program director of MSN programs at the University of North Carolina Greensboro School of Nursing, said in the article. 

According to the article, nurses cannot bill directly for their services in most cases, so nurses are often among the first to be laid off when a budget is cut. 

"It's frustrating, because we've got all this data that shows how important it is to have the appropriate workloads for nurses to improve quality and safety — but it keeps being cut," Dr. Bacon said.

Nurses want better conditions, and they can no longer rely on management to improve their circumstances, according to the article. 

"You can't fix it with a pizza day," a group of nurse leaders said at a recent conference. 

The article recommends nurses advocate for nurse-led staffing committees at the hospital and/or state levels.

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