There’s nothing like walking in at the beginning of a 12 hour shift and realizing you’re short staffed. Millions of questions start to run through your head; Will I have time to pee in the next 12 hours? What about eating? Is it too late to make a run for the door? Even more importantly, will I exceed the amount of patients I’m able to take care of properly? Understaffed healthcare facilities are a growing issue, and this issue goes far beyond the health and well-being of overworked nurses. Staffing healthcare facilities with the proper work force needs to become a priority.
First, let’s discuss why this staffing shortage is even an issue. This matter can be difficult to wrap your head around, after all, more nurses means more patients get seen in a timely manner, and the work load is less per nurse, so it’s a win-win for nurses and patients. Well that sounds just peachy until you understand the cost of adding on more nurses each shift, or at least that’s how a lot of medical facilities look at the situation.
Negative Effects of Improper Staffing
Many nurses believe it’s near impossible to properly care for patients when they are caring for too many. This means that when a patient calls for a nurse, no matter what the issue, the nurse may not be able to get there right away. When staffing levels are low, patients are more likely to be dissatisfied with their stay, suffer during their stay, return due to improper care during their stay and even die.
While patients do suffer when it comes to understaffed medical facilities, we can’t let our beloved nurses get pushed to the back burner. Nurse’s burnout is nothing to take lightly and stress has been considered a workplace hazard for decades, so it’s important to understand the extent to which these nurses are suffering. Overworked nurses are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and fatigue, as well as becoming physically ill. Not to mention that nurses that are frustrated or tired are more likely to make mistakes when it comes to caring for patients.
To put this in prospective, here are some scary facts and statistics. At hospitals where the nurse to patient ratio was 1:8, five more patients died per 1,000 patients than in hospitals where the nurse to patient ratio was 1:4. The more patients a nurse is taking care of, the more likely a patient is to die. In 2010, Health Services Research reported that proper staffing ultimately saved lives and led to shorter hospital stays. Finally, despite what many facilities believe, increasing staff is the most cost effective way to improve patient care.
Making Proper Staffing a Priority
Many nurses are taking a stand and speaking out against improper staffing at their state’s capitals, while others plan to join together in May, 2016 to protest the issue in Washington, D.C. Some other nurses are speaking out against hospital administration, and some nurses are choosing to further their experience as a travel nurse, taking assignments in understaffed parts of the country. All of these efforts are in hopes of a change that will increase patient and staff health and well-being. Proper staffing needs to be a priority.