A recent literature review offered no support for minimum nurse/patient staffing ratios in acute care hospitals. The finding was especially strong when researchers didn't adjust for nursing skill levels and patient mix. However, their findings suggest that total nursing hours and nursing skill mix do influence some key patient outcomes.
Researchers reviewed 43 studies of the effects of nurse staffing on patient and hospital outcomes published between 1980 and 2003. They limited their review of patient outcomes to in-hospital adverse events. Their aim was to learn whether the studies could guide the setting of minimum nurse/patient ratios in acute care hospitals.
None of the studies supported the value of specific minimum nurse/patient ratios for acute care hospitals. But the researchers found that a greater total number of nursing hours and a richer skill mix among nurses appeared to lower failure-to-rescue and inpatient mortality rates and to shorten hospital stays.
"Nurse-Patient Ratios: A Systematic Review on the Effects of Nurse Staffing on Patient, Nurse Employee, and Hospital Outcomes," Journal of Nursing Administration, T. Lang, et al., July/August 2004.