I have been a nurse for almost seven years. I formerly worked on an orthopaedic/neurological/medical-surgical unit. Let me describe the work on this unit that cared for many fresh, very acutely-ill, post-operative patients. I cared for six to seven patients who were receiving intravenous fluids, antibiotics, and pain medications. Many had post-operative drains that needed monitoring and many suffered from dementia. Additionally nurses had to complete 11-12 forms each shift in addition to doing computer work, answering phones, and handling many admissions and discharges. Then administrators started talking about adding cardiac telemetry units on this overloaded floor as part of a redesign project. I, along with seven other good nurses, transferred off this unit for our own sanity. We left after being denied breaks and lunches because our patients were having serious problems. Now I have time to sit and eat a lunch. Nurses leave due to lack of help from their coworkers who are also overworked, lack of respect from doctors who yell when we are behind with their orders, and lack of help from new nurses who are not yet prepared to handle these heavy loads.
I recommend that hospitals start staffing based on patient acuity rather than merely "numbers" of patients, and that administrators and managers spend more time watching nurses work on such floors to know just how overworked physically and mentally these nurses really are. The alternative is to risk losing more staff nurses. My message to everyone out there is this: If you want nurses to be available when you need them, then LISTEN to us nurses not to the administrators.