n Southern African Journal of Critical Care - ICU nurse allocation in a cardiothoracic ICU : how many hands do we need?

Volume 23, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1562-8264
  • E-ISSN: 2078-676X



To determine the nurse / patient ratios required to render safe, competent ICU nursing.

A patient classification system (CritScore) was used to compile an objective 3-month patient profile. The number (of full-time and agency staff) and the professional profiles of nursing staff allocated to the unit during this period were documented.
The majority of the patients were class 3 patients. While there was concordance between the total number of nurses present in relation to the number predicted by CritScore, the number of ICU-trained nurses was consistently below that ascertained by CritScore. This unit was staffed on average with more than 50% non-permanent staff who were employed on a temporary basis via agencies.
The number of nursing hands allocated is important, but even more so is the quality, or competence, of these hands. Nursing care without an acceptable level of competence in a critical care unit may be considered as a potentially harmful intrusion for the patient.

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