Care quality worsens, nursing workload increases as nurse‐patient ratio rises


As the nurse‐patient ratio increases, care quality declines, and nursing workload increases, a study published in the Journal of Nursing Management found.

The researchers tested a discrete event simulation modeling approach to predict nurse workload and care quality. Discrete event simulation, or DES, is a method of simulating the behavior and performance of a real-life process, facility or system.

The researchers used DES to develop a simulated care delivery unit model that could predict the effects of different nurse‐patient ratios.

They looked at patient care data, inpatient unit floor plan and operating logic. They also examined nurse workload in terms of the tasks nurses had to complete, cumulative distance they walked and care quality in terms of the time of the tasks in their queue and missed care.

The model found that as nurse‐patient ratio increases, care quality deteriorates and nursing workload increases.

"DES has the potential to be used to inform operational policy and technical design decisions, in terms of impacts on nurse workload and care quality," the researchers concluded.

Editor's note: This article was updated Feb. 14 at 11:32 a.m. CST. A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the study found more nurses per patient doesn't mean better care or lighter nurse workload. Becker's regrets the error.

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