Understaffed Hospital Nurses

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Being a nurse is ridiculously hard.  I have no idea why someone would even take that path in life anymore.  I have worked with so many great ones that I know it was a true calling from them.  But the job is getting worse and worse.  Besides the fact that they have to deal with arrogant physicians and increasingly difficult patients, they are being more and more stretched at the hospitals.  I had seen this trend worsen over the years with many of my nurse friends burning out and quitting.  They LOVED their profession but they still quit. Why? They had no choice.  No one listened to them. Not only was the job overwhelming but they felt they were putting their patients at risk. Here is an Op-Ed in the NY Times that talks about this. It explains the issue of understaffing nurses in hospitals and I took the liberty to highlight some points below:

  • The nurses were scared because their department was so understaffed that they believed their patients — and their nursing licenses — were in danger, and because they knew that when tensions ran high and nurses were spread thin, patients could snap and turn violent.
  • The nurses were regularly assigned seven to nine patients at a time, when the safe maximum is generally considered four (and just two for patients bound for the intensive-care unit).
  • In a survey of nurses in Massachusetts released this month, 25 percent said that understaffing was directly responsible for patient deaths, 50 percent blamed understaffing for harm or injury to patients and 85 percent said that patient care is suffering because of the high numbers of patients assigned to each nurse.
  • According to the New York State Nurses Association, this month Jack D. Weiler Hospital of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York threatened nurses with arrest, and even escorted seven nurses out of the building, because, during a breakfast to celebrate National Nurses Week, the nurses discussed staffing shortages. (A spokesman for the hospital disputed this characterization of the events.)
  • “The biggest change in the last five to 10 years is the unrelenting emphasis on boosting their profit margins at the expense of patient safety,” said David Schildmeier, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Nurses Association. “Absolutely every decision is made on the basis of cost savings.”
  • Experts said that many hospital administrators assume the studies don’t apply to them and fault individuals, not the system, for negative outcomes.

You will see a common thread between physicians’ complaints on this blog and the nurses’ complaints above, that thread being the ever increasing growth and power behind administrators.  The sheer number of them has increased 3000% over the past 30 years and they cost the system jobs.  Whose jobs?  Nurses!  They are the biggest reason we have less nurses on the floor in the hospital.  You are cutting nurse positions to fund a high paying administrator so that he or she can go to meetings all day and eat bagels.  Why this article doesn’t say it is beyond me.  Of course you will hear that studies show other budgetary reasons causing these staffing cuts, but these studies were created by and for administrators.  Don’t let them fool you.  How many more nurses could you keep employed if you cut the CEO’s salary from $5 million a year to $4 million a year?  All someone needs to do is take ONE hospital and add up all the salaries and benefits of the administrators and compare that to all the salaries and benefits of the nurses.  Once that data is published, then true change may occur.

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