Safe nurse staffing critical to patient safety


White paper on Nurse Staffing Levels for Patient Safety and Workforce Safety launched at ICN Congress


Singapore; Geneva, Switzerland, 30 June 2019 – The close relation between safe staffing levels and patient safety was highlighted in two sessions today at the ICN Congress in Singapore attended by over 5,000 nurses.

Dr Abdulelah Alhawsawi, Director General of the Saudi Patient Safety Center, focused on the theme of safety in his talk about the alignment of nurses’ safety with patients’ safety. The ICN and Saudi Patient Safety Center launched their White paper on Nurse Staffing Levels for Patient Safety and Workforce Safety which brings together evidence from a wide range of sources, covering different countries and contexts, showing that having the right numbers of nurses, in the right place and at the right time, delivers quality and safety for the populations they serve, and will help to retain nurses.

Professor Linda Aiken, Director of the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research, and a world-renowned nurse researcher, along with the Center’s associate director, Professor Matthew McHugh spoke about new evidence that adds to their previous research on nurse staffing levels and patient safety. Patient-to-nurse ratios vary substantially across hospitals within most countries without scientific justification and with negative consequences for patients and nurses, they reported. An independent evaluation of the outcomes of safe nurse staffing legislation implemented in Queensland, Australia were also discussed.


“We should turn our attention now to interventions that can fix the shortage of nurses by the bedside. Having enough nurses by the bedside also increases the satisfaction of the nurses who are there,” said Linda Aiken

The same things that cause nurses to burnout are the same that cause patients to be dissatisfied with their care, she continued. All these things are connected and they can be solved by improving staffing and the working environment.

Howard Catton, ICN’s CEO said,

‘ICN sees patient safety and nurse staffing as two sides of the same coin. This report highlights the need for decision-makers to allocate appropriate numbers of nurses with a suitable mix of education, skills and experience at all times across the continuum of care. Investment in safe, effective and needs-based nurse staffing is not only critical for patient safety, it can reduce the cost of treating avoidable healthcare associated conditions.’

More than 5000 nurses from 120-plus countries are in Singapore to attend the International Council of Nurses (ICN) 2019 Congress.

For details of the Congress programme go to:

Download the Congress app free of charge from the App Store for iPhones and from the Play Store for Android phones. After opening one of these stores, type “K.I.T. Group” in the search toolbar.


Note for Editors

The International Council of Nurses (ICN) is a federation of more than 130 national nurses’ associations representing the millions of nurses worldwide. Operated by nurses and leading nursing internationally, ICN works to ensure quality care for all and sound health policies globally.

For further information please contact

Gyorgy Madarasz, Press Officer, International Council of Nurses, Tel: +41 22 908 01 16