Look Beyond Nurse-Patient Ratios
Education as a Marker
Vitello also says that when it comes to the right nurse-to-patient ratios, "there was no fixed number [of nurses] that was the magic bullet." But there is one thing that does seem to be something of a magic bullet for patient safety: Education.
Study after study shows that the more educated nurses are, the better the outcomes. And education is something that the IOM wants too, illustrated by its recommended goal that the proportion of nurses with baccalaureate degrees be increased to 80% by 2020.
"That's where we need to start pouring what little monies we have," Vitello says.
But like it or not, the question of whether maximum nurse-patient staffing ratios should be mandated by law may go before Massachusetts voters in November. With that in mind, Vitello says it's up to nurses and nurse leaders to show the voting public that "more" doesn't necessarily mean "better."
"I think it's going to be incumbent on nursing… to educate our public that this is a recipe for waste," she says.
Alexandra Wilson Pecci is a managing editor for HealthLeaders Media.
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