Nurse-to-patient ratios

There is clear evidence to indicate that the number of nurses on a shift plays an important role in patient safety and quality of care.

The Queensland Government has legislated minimum nurse-to-patient ratios in the state’s public sector health facilities to ensure resourcing is matched to patient needs to ensure safe patient outcomes. A nurse-to-patient ratio is the number of nurses or midwives working on a particular ward, unit or department, in relation to the number of patients they care for. The legislated ratios will set the minimum number of nursing staff that a Hospital and Health Service must provide on a prescribed ward during a morning, afternoon or night shift.

The implementation of nurse-to-patient ratios will further support the existing Queensland Health Business Planning Framework: Nursing Resources along with professional college standards and good clinical judgement to provide improved patient safety and quality of care, improve workforce sustainability and ensure safer nursing workloads for front line nursing staff.


Queensland Health has secured the expertise of the world leader in research on nurse-to-patient ratios, the University of Pennsylvania.

The University will work in partnership with the Queensland University of Technology to assess the impacts of introducing legislated minimum nurse-to-patient ratios in Queensland’s public health system in July 2016. The University of Pennsylvania has carried out similar studies in more than 30 countries. The research team will be led by Dr Linda Aiken and Dr Matthew McHugh.

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Last updated: 18 January 2018