The Importance Of Voting For Nurse-To-Patient Ratios In Mental Health


Nurse Erin Francis knows that we can make nurse-to-patient ratios a reality – if we just vote for it.

I am a registered nurse working in an acute inpatient mental health ward in a metropolitan hospital. I work with some of the most vulnerable people in our community, suffering from a variety of mental illnesses and mental distress. An acute inpatient mental health ward can sometimes be a scary and confronting place, for both nurses and consumers.

A new policy on observation and engagement was rolled out last year across mental health units, making it virtually impossible to have any kind of therapeutic relationship with any of our consumers when looking after people on higher observation needs. With our current ratios we just don’t have time, making it both unsafe for patients and staff.

Violence is a hot topic at the moment, with huge statistics coming from mental health. Acute mental health nurses face violence and aggression on a daily basis, many of us being assaulted numerous times throughout our careers. On our NHPPD ward, the sub-acute ward, staff are robbed every shift to cover other units because there are always huge numbers of unfilled nursing vacancies.

With mandated nurse-to-patient ratios in mental health we can start to ensure both patient and staff safety. Members need to vote for ratios at this coming state election in March. That may mean that they need to vote differently than they would normally feel comfortable doing. 

This article was originally published as a Letter to the Editor in the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association publication, Lamp.  


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