How many patients can healthcare providers treat while maintaining adequate care? Some patients would be surprised to learn that their physician might see up to 2,500 patients a year—visits during which the physician has to deliver all recommended preventive, chronic, and acute care services required. Nurse staffing has faced this problem as well, with short-staffing at hospitals leading to rising nurse-to-patient ratios. How can these healthcare providers sufficiently handle such clinic loads while providing adequate care?
For physicians, the answer heavily relies on effective delegation of workload. In a 2012 study by the University of California at San Francisco’s Center for Excellence in Primary Care, if a primary care physician does everything on their own, from screening, counseling, immunization, drug prescription, chronic care, and treatment of acute conditions, the physician could only accommodate a maximum panel of 983 patients.
Of these tasks, the time physicians spend on preventative services could be delegated to non-clinician care-team members. Those hours spent managing common chronic conditions could be delegated to other hospital personnel, such as nurses and medical assistants. In appropriately delegating these tasks, it allows a doctor more time to appropriately treat the greatest number of patients while ensuring proper care and treatment.
As for nurses, the answer becomes a bit more complicated, as issues related to large clinic load typically result from staffing shortages. The most important question any nurse facing a larger patient load must ask is: which patient requires attention first? Moreover, creating a team atmosphere amongst nursing staff is key to ensuring that, if someone is particularly struggling on any given day, a nurse who may be experiencing a lighter clinic load is available to help.
While there are ways to alleviate the burden of a large clinic load, there will inevitably be times where the most a physician or nurse can do is grit their teeth and bear it. In such moments, there is a risk that your actions may result in a patient complaint to the medical board, resulting in possible fines, reputation damage, or jeopardizing your license. Williams & Nickl has extensive experience assisting medical professionals facing such complaints to defend their physician licenses and nursing licenses. If any problems occur, Williams & Nickl will work to help you through the process.