Fewer registered nurses = more deaths

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Yet another new study shows the benefit of registered-nurse-to-patient-ratios – but there are still no minimum requirements for RNs or even nursing assistants in aged care across Australia. Read on…

Death rates are higher on hospital wards with fewer nurses, according to new British research that suggests the drive to replace registered nurses with less qualified nursing assistants should be stopped.

The report was published in the British Medical Journal last week and will come as no surprise to nurses and midwives in Australia, where nursing unions in several states have fought for – and partially won – a ratio of one-to-four nurse-to-patients. Last year, new Labor governments in Queensland and Victoria legislated for ratios, in a move that recognised how crucial they are to patient wellbeing.

The research is the latest in a long line of studies that show the benefits of adequate staffing. See The Benefits of More Nurses and a presentation by ratios expert Linda Aitken.

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However, there are no minimum staffing numbers or skill mix in aged care in Australia. This is a disgraceful situation which can give rise to a single care worker with minimal training looking after 30-50 frail, vulnerable patients with complex, chronic conditions overnight, many with dementia.

The federal Senate is currently conducting an Inquiry into aged care staffing – the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation is calling on them to recommend  mandating a registered nurse 24/7 in all stand-alone aged care facilities, as recommended by a NSW Government Upper House Inquiry late last year.

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Whether you work in aged care or not, please lend your voice to this by making a short submission to the Inquiry – you can submit via email and choose to make your thoughts completely confidential, name withheld or publicly accessible. Most of us have some experience of aged care within our families and friends – or as nurses looking after old people who are sent to hospital. It’s important to make our voices heard. Make a submission now.

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