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Most states require hospitals to develop, adopt and publicly post staffing policies for the facility. Managers must schedule the minimum number of nurses needed to adequately take care of inpatients in advance. According to the American Nurses Association, many states have enacted laws that require that registered nurses make up at least 50 percent of staff planning committees, because they have firsthand knowledge of staffing needs.
Study Reports of Patient Outcomes
For staffing levels to be realistic, they must reflect experience and facts. The committee creating the staffing plans needs to collect and review figures that expose the number of infections in each unit and how many nurses were on the floor at the time of the outbreak. Quality of care depends on sufficient nursing staff to prevent other issues, ranging from the number of decubitus ulcers to the number and type of medication errors and patient injuries during shifts.
Accumulate Figures for Analysis
Other figures to consider when planning staff levels include the average daily census numbers in the hospital at different times as well as the average length of stay. While staffing may increase or decrease as the census changes, budget departments and HR need to know what to expect over the coming year. Consider skill levels, required competencies among the general nursing staff and the special needs of the average patient when planning future hospital staffing needs.
Establish Minimum Guidelines
Once it has patient outcomes and past patient figures, the planning committee establishes minimum guidelines for nurse managers to follow. Base guidelines on nationally accepted best practices as well as the specific needs of the individual hospital and its population. Establish minimum requirements for registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and certified nursing aides. Include specialty care units, such as intensive care and pediatrics, in the guidelines to establish minimum staffing levels for nursing specialists.
Evaluations and Changes
Nurse managers and hospital staffing personnel should get formal surveys and processes to evaluate staffing levels on a regular basis as part of their regular job duties. Guidelines should be in place to increase or reduce staffing when necessary to meet patient demands and save hospital resources. The staff planning committee should implement overtime rules and regulations as well.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."