Thanks to the US government’s efforts to provide universal healthcare, employment opportunities in the field of nursing have been rising steadily over the last few years. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 3.2 million registered nurses will be working in the US health sector by 2022 translating to a 19% increase in employment opportunities from 2012. As the cost and demand of medical care continues to rise, nurses will become even more important to the U.S. healthcare system. To learn more, checkout this infographic below created by the University of San Francisco‚Äôs Online Master of Science in Nursing program.

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Patient-to-RN ratio
Currently, 13% of registered nurses care for six patients while 16% care for five patients. In addition, 17%, 11%, 18%, and 6% of nurses care for four, three, two and one patient respectively.

Nurse-patient interaction
Nurses in US hospitals and healthcare facilities spend much of their time performing a wide range of patient care activities and tasks. More specifically, a typical nurse will spend up to 17.3% of his/her time engaged in professional communication tasks. At the same time, nurses spend 16.2% of their time on medication-related duties, 11.3% and 10.3% of their working time providing indirect and direct care to patients. Commuting to and from different locations to perform various work-related tasks such as picking patients for admission and transferring patients to other hospitals or specialized trauma care centers accounts for 9.6% of a typical workday, whereas filling and handling patient as well as hospital documentation accounts for 4%. Ward-related, supervision, social and other tasks account for 1.1%, 1.1%, 0.9%, and 0.6% respectively of a nurse’s interaction with patients.

Due to the nature of their work and the amount of time nurses spend interacting with patients, they have consistently been rated the leading professionals in terms of honesty and ethical standards for the last 13 years in a row. It is also worth noting that hospitals in the US with high nurse staffing levels tend to register 25% lower incidences of hospital readmissions penalties.

Impact Of Nurses On Patient Health Outcomes
The number of nurses employed at a hospital or health facility has a huge impact on the health outcomes of patients during and after treatment. In fact, hospitals with high nurse-to-patient ratios generally register up to 60% reduction in mortality rate. Still, it is worth noting that 86% of nurses say they have faced difficulties providing proper comfort and care to patients as well as their families due to unsafe patient assignments. Moreover, 81% of nurses say they have been unable to set aside ample time to educate patients on important continuous treatment or recuperation procedures before discharge. Up to 61% of nurses say they have spotted and reported medication errors attributable to unsafe patient assignments to the relevant authorities. Unsafe patient assignments have also been responsible for patient readmission reported by 56% of nurses. As many as 50% of nurses have registered and reported patient injuries attributable to low staffing. Finally, 25% of RNs have reported patient fatalities directly related to disproportionate patient-to-health facility staff ratio. In this case, more patients than hospital staff can adequately care for at once.

Better Patient Health Outcomes Benefits
Firstly, better patient health outcomes typically translate to lower healthcare costs. To be precise, hospitals with high nurse-to-patient ratios register 6,239 fewer infections translating to healthcare cost savings of as much as $68 million per year. The second benefit is lower medical errors that could lead to potentially expensive malpractice suits. Each 20% decrease in nurse-to-patient ratio below the minimum recommended level leads to an increase in medical errors and malpractice suits by a staggering 18%.

Another benefit related to better patient health outcomes is lower rate of hospital readmission. Better nurse-to-patient ratios lower the readmission rate of pneumonia patients by 10%. This is in addition to reducing the readmission rates of heart failure and acute myocardial infarction patients by 7% and 6% respectively.

The final major benefit is the reduction in the number of days patients spend admitted in hospital. By ramping up registered nurse staffing levels, hospitals can lower the number of patient admission days by 5.7%.

The Role of Nursing Education In Patient Health Outcomes
To improve the health outcomes of patients during and after treatment, better nursing education is the way to go. This is because patients who receive medical care and attention from nurses with Bachelor’s degree qualifications have an 18.7% lower likelihood of readmission and their hospital stays are 1.9% shorter compared to patients treated by RNs without similar education qualifications. On their part, nurses can improve patient health outcomes by coordinating patient care, monitoring patient prescriptions and medications, using evidence-based approaches to improve patient care practices, supervising lab procedures to minimize handling and labeling errors, and performing supply/service cost comparisons to pick the best choice.