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Why Nurses Complaining About Hospital Staffing is a Big Problem

Posted by Scott M. Peterson | Sep 24, 2019

A recent concerning article in the Albany Times Union highlighted an increasing problem with hospital safety - understaffing.  According to the article, Nurses at Albany Medical Center Hospital planned to picket outside of the hospital, in order to "raise awareness for what they say are unsafe staffing levels."  According to a nurse on the maternity ward, families simply cannot receive the kind of care that they deserve "without good staffing."

Nurses at Albany Med describe being afraid to end their shift and go home, out of concern that there are simply not enough nurses to go around.

According to the article, Albany Med has nearly 200 nursing vacancies, creating a vacancy rate of approximately 10%.  While the hospital claims that this is consistent with other hospitals in Upstate New York, nurses describe the environment as "a self-perpetuating cycle in which low pay and worsening benefits cause nurses to leave for better-paying jobs, leaving staff who do remain with a larger work burden...[leaving] them more susceptible to burnout."

According to one nursing member, "we end up in situations where we stretch the limits of our license to make sure our patients are taken care of."

Burnout  and stretching the limits of a license - which, of course, leads to mistakes.

Why is this such a concern?

Hospitals, like any other business, deal with staffing and employee issues.  It's a reality of the system.  The problem, however, is that when staffing shortages in hospitals lead to burnout or performing procedures outside of a license, patients face the risk.

One of the more common reasons for hospital errors, in our experience, is a lack of attention to detail.  A patient receives an overdose of medication; a diagnosis is missed; a patient falls from an operating table; a heating pad is left on a patient for too long; a sponge or other surgical instrument is left inside of a patient following surgery.   

These are all common hospital errors, and they are all entirely preventable.  So how do they happen?

They happen because staff are too busy to pay full attention.  They happen because the hospital has not hired sufficient staff to ensure that those on the floor are not burned out.  And they happen when existing staff is pushed to the point where they have to perform procedures that stretch them to the limit.

Expansion and growth can be a good thing.  In the healthcare world, however, when we see greater and greater expansion and growth of facilities, it concerns us, because from our perspective, we often see a decrease in the quality of patient care. 

If you have questions about poor patient care at a hospital, contact us today.

About the Author

Scott M. Peterson

Scott M. Peterson is the founding partner of D'Orazio Peterson, having left a partnership at a large regional law firm to limit his practice and focus on helping people protect their families.

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