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  • Ziggi Murphy

Better Nurse to Patient ratios. Its just common sense.

As a nurse I would like to see a government-initiated nurse to patient ratio.

Not only would this provide a safer environment for patients, but it would also allow for the creation of more nursing jobs. There is a current backlog of graduate nursing positions which is only going to get worst in the future if the governments keep making cuts to health funding.

Graduate nurses need to obtain a graduate program with two years of qualifying. The pressure on them to get onto one of these programs is immense. The government has continued to cut the number of graduate programs each year, therefore each graduating year, newly qualified nurses lose out.

The Australian Nursing Federation in WA has been campaigning for a long time now for legislated nurse-to-patient ratios. A rule of no more than 4 patients to a nurse in a general ward. Linda Aiken from the University of Pennsylvania, who was a keynote speaker at the International Congress on Innovations in Nursing in Perth said “We have lots of evidence that shows that if hospitals have enough nurses, the outcomes of patients are better, including the prevention of unnecessary deaths, readmission and hospital-acquired infections,” Dr Aiken, has been studying the links between hospital performance, nursing levels and patient outcomes in 30 countries, including Australia.

The continued cuts from healthcare are unsustainable. Due to the health funding cuts, nurses are working harder and looking after more and more patients.

I know that nurses are not alone in this, midwifes and doctors are also being pushed to their limit. Increased workloads lead to less attention to detail resulting in greater opportunity for adverse incidents. The increase in workload is driving out experienced staff who are suffering burnout due to, but not limited to, factors including; under-staffing and incivility. This affects the quality of care as there are more inexperienced staff looking after sicker patients.

Dr Aiken also pointed out there was a growing push to not only reduce the number of registered nurses available to care for patients, but also to substitute them with less skilled staff, and it was leading to deaths. She said, “We know that nurses are the surveillance system for the early detection of problems ... they are the ones that see them early and call in other team members to help save a patient’s life”.

It is time the government took peoples health seriously and provide permanent full-time jobs for hospital staff.

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