When hospitalized, you are perhaps at your most vulnerable and rightfully expect attentive and expert care. But is your care impacted when the nurse caring for you is also caring for ten (or more) other patients? Or if your nurse is working long shifts with few to no breaks? The answers are yes.
Across the nation over the past year, nurses have been striking. Whether the strikes are in Hawaii, Washington, New York, or Massachusetts, the reasons are the same and surround staffing. In late 2020, the Department of Health and Human Services reported that over 1,000 hospitals in the United States are “critically short” on staff with more projected, and 87% of nurses reported the same in a recent survey.
While staffing issues were present well before the impact of COVID-19 on the hospital systems, COVID has certainly exacerbated it. In fact, part of the problem is the hospitals themselves, or, more specifically, their corporate owners. Investor-owned for-profit hospitals are an increasing trend in U.S. healthcare. With out-of-state owners and shareholders putting an emphasis on operational efficiencies and profits, the result can be a high-demand environment with lower staff levels that drive many good nurses away while overworking those who remain.
Fewer nurses managing more patients in a high-stress environment means less responsiveness and a higher probability that mistakes will occur. It also means that the nurses themselves are unhappy. In that same survey, 83% of nurses reported their mental health and well-being had declined in the past year and 44% strongly disagreed that their employer was doing enough to support them. It is no surprise that 43% said they were considering leaving the healthcare profession altogether.
Why don’t these concerning results drive more nurse-friendly hospital cultures? A major reason is because nursing demands for higher wages, better benefits, and higher staffing levels all impact the bottom line, and hospitals, especially for-profit hospitals, are resistant.
As a result, when hospitals are not supportive of their staff, morale and retention suffer and attrition is high. Unfortunately, patients will pay the ultimate price of being cared for by overworked and stressed nurses. One study has claimed that every additional patient on a nurse’s caseload actually increases mortality risk by 7%. As a medical center administrator put it, “[w]hen you are in disaster mode and trying to keep your finger on the leak in the dike, you can’t give every patient the care they deserve.”
If you or a loved one has suffered because of inadequate nursing care in the hospital, contact us to discuss your options.