In the United Kingdom, where the National Health Service has recognized that nurse staffing is a crisis, legislation is already in the works to establish a minimum standard of care.
The group Four-to-One advises that four patients for every nurse is the ideal mandatory minimum to be able to give 2.48 hours of care per patient per shift. The national average of 9:1, according to research from 2009, means patients are only seen for 1.12 hours per patient per shift. This results in a 20 percent higher mortality rate, 22 percent higher job dissatisfaction, and 34 percent higher burnout rate for nurses. When nurses experience dissatisfaction or burnout, they’re more likely to quit, which leaves hospital units even further short staffed.
In the UK, the nurse study group also says that it’s not uncommon for some hospital units to have a ratio of 14:1 patients to nurse, which leaves each patient seen only 48 minutes per shift. Mortality increases 26 percent, and nurse dissatisfaction skyrockets to 71 percent with a 78 percent burnout rate.
Hospitals in the US are watching what happens with nurse staffing internationally as better care elsewhere could mean the degradation of US healthcare compared to European nations.