Why Inadequate Nursing Staff Poses a Risk for All Patients
Over the past few years, numerous hospitals and health care facilities have reduced the amount of nursing staff in a bid to cut costs in as many areas as possible. Although the care facility in question may be saving money by doing this, it undoubtedly has a negative impact on one of the most important aspects of health care namely, patient safety levels.
Higher Risk of Adverse Events
This is one of the most obvious ways in which a reduction of nursing employees will affect patient safety. The fewer nurses there are to monitor a hospital’s patients, the higher the chance is of having adverse events take place. According to research done by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Advancing Excellence in Health Care, each extra patient that is assigned to a nurse results in a 7% increase in the risk of hospital-acquired infections, a more than 50% increase in respiratory failure and an almost 20% increase in overall medical complications.
Reducing the amount of nursing staff in any health care facility will result in existing nurses having to work longer hours than before. This will not only cause them to experience burnout after working excessively long hours; it will normally also result in a higher than necessary turnover of nursing employees. Nurses who are tired as a result of working longer hours are also far more prone to making mistakes when it comes to patient care in many cases, a single mistake with regards to a medication dosage or even basic care instructions can be fatal to the patient. A high turnover of nurses also means that they never really get to know the patients in their care either.
Longer Hospital Stays for Patients
In cases where nurses have to care for more patients than they are able to cope with, research has shown that it can result in patients having to stay in hospital for longer than necessary. This is because they are not being monitored as often as they should be; which results in the development of conditions such as bed sores and other serious medical complications. In many cases, hospitals are fined each time a patient develops any form of hospital-acquired infection as well, so hiring additional nurses could in fact reduce a hospital’s running costs in the long term.
Increased Likelihood of Patient Deaths
Nurses who have increased workloads will obviously not be able to take as good care of the patients assigned to them as they should. In cases where severe staff shortages are being experienced either due to illness or nurse cutbacks it results in patients not receiving the best possible level of care. In cases where high care patients are involved, this can even result in the death of one or more patients, as those in high care or intensive care wards require round the clock monitoring in order to get well again.
Although saving money is one of the most important operational factors for most medical and health care facilities, it should never be prioritized over patient safety. There should always be a sufficient amount of nurses on hand to ensure that patients are properly cared for at all times.