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5–20: a model of minimum nurse-to-patient ratios in Victoria, Australia


Marie Gerdtz
The School of Nursing
The University of Melbourne
Level 1
723 Swanston Street
Victoria 3053


Aim  This study presents a critique of a new model of minimum nurse-to- patient ratio and considers its utility alongside established Patient Dependency Systems.

Background  Since 2001 legislation mandating minimum nurse-to-patient ratios has been enacted throughout large public hospitals in the state of Victoria, Australia. The Victorian model mandates minimum staffing of five nurses to 20 patients in acute medical and surgical wards. In conjunction with this approach, Patient Dependency Systems are employed to anticipate short-term resource needs.

Key issues  Although this legislation has been successful in attracting nurses back into the public sector workforce, no published empirical evidence exists to support specific ratios. In addition, neither ratio nor Patient Dependency Systems approaches account for the critical influence of skill mix on hospital, employee, or patient outcomes.

Conclusion  There is an urgent need for further research that specifically examines relationships between models of staffing, skill mix and quality outcomes.