Medical-surgical nurses keep busy schedules in the midst of a demanding profession. A meal break may be the only time of day to pause, reflect, and fuel your mind. In the “Lunch Bite” article series, AMSN is serving up bite-sized, yet impactful, insights on top-of-mind topics in the medical-surgical nursing space so you can stay informed and make the most of your valuable time. Check out the first installment below, and stay tuned for more servings of knowledge to power your passion for the profession. Want to contribute a bite of your own? Contact AMSN Content Manager Morgan Manghera, email@example.com, to get published.
In the fast-paced world of nursing, one critical aspect that often gets overlooked is the acuity of patients on medical-surgical units. Patient acuity refers to the level of care and attention required by an individual patient, and it plays a vital role in ensuring the delivery of safe, effective, and efficient healthcare. Understanding and accurately assessing patient acuity is essential for healthcare professionals, as it guides the allocation of resources, staffing decisions, and the overall quality of care provided on medical-surgical units.
Patient acuity can vary greatly from one patient to another and is influenced by a range of factors, including the patient's medical condition, comorbidities, age, and overall health status. Acuity is typically measured using various acuity tools or scales that help healthcare providers assess the level of care required. These tools consider factors such as vital signs, diagnostic test results, mobility, and the need for invasive interventions. By determining a patient's acuity, healthcare teams can tailor their care plans to meet specific needs and allocate resources accordingly.
To effectively assess patient acuity, healthcare facilities often use standardized tools and scales. These tools provide a structured approach to evaluating patients and assigning appropriate acuity levels. Some commonly used acuity assessment tools include the Braden Scale for predicting pressure sore risk, the National Early Warning Score (NEWS) for identifying deteriorating patients, and the Modified Early Warning Score (MEWS) for vital sign monitoring. Additionally, electronic health records (EHRs) and healthcare information systems play a crucial role in facilitating acuity assessment by storing and displaying patient data in a structured format. This technology enables healthcare providers to track patient progress, identify trends, and make real-time acuity adjustments as needed. Additional strategies include team collaboration with regular communication and interdisciplinary rounds to ensure that all members of the healthcare team are contributing to patient care management.
Challenges to managing patient acuity include resource allocation, sufficient staffing, and nursing workload. Nurses play a central role in managing patients’ complex care needs. Nurses must balance their workload to ensure that all patients receive the care they need, regardless of their acuity level. This can be difficult when also balancing the other issues of resource allocation and staffing.
Managing the acuity of patients on medical-surgical units is a complex and multifaceted challenge. Balancing the needs of high and low-acuity patients is not only essential for the well-being of the individuals but also for the overall quality of healthcare provided in these units. The key lies in a comprehensive approach that ensures every patient receives the right care, at the right time, from dedicated and well-prepared healthcare professionals.
Blaine Jumper, MSN, RN, CMSRN, has worked as a medical-surgical nurse since 2009. In 2021, Blaine received her Master of Science in nursing education and is now teaching full time in a practical nursing program, teaching primarily medical-surgical curriculum. She is married with two children and resides in Oklahoma. Her hobbies include reading and playing board games.