KILN Scholar, Yvonne Shih, presenting at the Boston College Undergraduate Research Symposium
KILN Scholar, Yvonne Shih, presenting at the Boston College Undergraduate Research Symposium

Last summer, I received an Advanced Study Grant to research the topic of nurse-to-patient ratio in California and Massachusetts. I started this project with no knowledge on the topic of nurse-to-patient ratio. Nevertheless, I knew that I was interested in learning about the economics behind healthcare in the United States. With the help of CSON faculty Dr. Judith Shindul-Rothschild, this recent political debate on mandated nurse staffing policy was brought to my attention. My project mainly focused on interviewing California and Massachusetts key informants who have knowledge about the past, present, and possible future of this health care issue.

Like any business, a hospital depends on reimbursements and revenue to pay for its employees’ services. In many hospital institutions, nurses continue to make up a high percentage of employees because their services include twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week bedside care. As healthcare costs in the United States continue to rise, a general concern about increased consumer medical expenses grows. In the 1990’s, hospitals began to lay off nurses to decrease their expenditure on labor. The downsizing took a huge toll on the nurses who were still working because they had to care for more patients. This business-driven decision has opened up discussion about how to prevent nurses from being burnt out and feeling overwhelmed with more patients than they can handle at once.

I learned that so far California is still the only state that solved this predicament by implementing government mandated nurse-to-patient ratio. However, other states like Massachusetts cannot agree on this resolution. An attempt to balance the demand for patient care and supply of nurses in the United Sates has been very difficult to achieve. At the end of my journey, I learned a lot about the importance of having a balanced quality, care, and access in healthcare settings.

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