What is the Ideal Staff-to-Resident Ratio in Nursing Homes?
There’s a lot that goes into ensuring proper care in nursing homes, assisted living centers, and other types of long-term care facilities. And with many states facing severe nursing shortages, it’s essential to understand what the ideal staff-to-resident ratio in nursing homes is – and why it makes such a difference in the overall quality of care.
More than 56 million Americans were aged 65 or older in 2020, and that number is expected to reach more than 73 million by 2030. That’s a lot of people in need of long-term care and a reminder that, while one-to-one care is never possible, the nurse-to-patient ratio in long-term care facilities like nursing homes is not an issue that can be ignored.
Here’s what to know about the optimal caregiver ratios in nursing homes, as well as the benefits of achieving proper staffing levels at a long-term care facility.
The Best Staff Ratio for Assisted Living Centers
In 2022 the Biden administration proposed a new initiative under the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) – specifically, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) – to address nursing home staffing shortages and improve the safety and quality of care in these facilities.
While the proposed initiative will eventually include a federal minimum staffing ratio, minimum staff-to-patient ratios in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities vary by state. Though you’ll need to check your state’s mandates for information on the minimum staff ratio for assisted living facilities, there are general rules helpful to know.
In many cases, the ideal ratio is one staff member per six to eight residents. This may be higher than minimum standards in your own state, but it’s essential to remember that minimum ratios don’t always equal ideal ratios. If the minimum staff-to-resident ratio in nursing homes in your state doesn’t adequately meet the needs of your facility or patients, then your ideal ratio is going to be higher.
Benefits of Achieving Adequate Staffing Levels
Better care is and should always be a primary goal. And while staffing levels aren’t the only way to achieve that, they are a key piece of the puzzle.
The average ratio of nurse-to-patient in nursing home facilities has a huge impact on caregiver responsiveness and the health and safety of the patient population. It also has a number of other benefits, including:
- Improved resident satisfaction – Residents who get their needs met sooner are more likely to feel safe, comfortable, and cared for in their facilities.
- Better care coordination – More staff on the floor means more opportunities to attend to responsibilities and collaborate on patient care.
- Reduced caregiver stress – A proper nurse-to-patient ratio helps prevent burnout among caregivers and ensures that no individual nurse is required to take on more than they can handle.
- Fewer medical events – Multiple studies have found a direct correlation between higher nurse staffing levels in nursing homes and reduced use of emergency care services and rehospitalizations.
- Better financial health for facilities – Long-term care facilities that are able to reach optimal staffing levels are able to maintain preferred occupancy rates and keep cash flow problems at bay.
On the flip side, there are a number of notable consequences to understaffing. Among them: are an increased risk of falls, medication errors, and pressure sores, all of which negatively impact the quality of a long-term care facility.
How to Achieve a Proper Ratio of Average Nurse to Patient in Nursing Homes
With so much riding on nursing home staffing levels, it makes sense to wonder how facilities can actually achieve the ideal ratios, especially in light of nationwide nursing shortages. Fortunately, several strategies can be used to ensure staffing levels are adequate and, when needed, supplement current staff with additional caregivers.
To make sure their staffing levels are appropriate, nursing homes and other long-term care facilities must take several targeted steps, including regular evaluations, staff training, and the implementation of a flexible scheduling system.
These strategies give insight into whether or not current staffing levels are sufficient for patients and caregivers. They also ensure facilities can respond at earlier stages to short- and long-term staffing problems.
As for boosting the number of available caregivers on staff, the solution for many facilities is per diem hiring, which can help resolve issues related to nursing shortages and low staffing ratios. Per diem nurses can be hired days, weeks, or even hours ahead of required shifts, filling in staffing gaps and helping facilities provide continuous, high-quality care for residents.
Connect with Qualified Per Diem Caregivers
The NurseIO platform was designed with facility staffing needs in mind. Use our web and app-based platform to post open shifts for RNs, CNAs, Med Techs, and more in your area. Learn more about how NurseIO helps facilities avoid staffing shortages, and sign up today to start connecting with local pRN healthcare professionals.