Every nursing home abuse case I get involved with ultimately boils down to problems with staffing— or simply an inadequate supply of it. Particularly when dealing with a vulnerable group of patients in a nursing home or hospital, even minor errors can result in exceedingly complex medical complications.
While my impressions on staffing issues in nursing homes could be skewed by the type of cases that I work on, a recent study seems to reinforce my observations. Straight from nurses’ mouth to patients’ ears— safety issues are a real problem facing patients in nursing home and hospitals. A survey conducted of more than 600 nurses in the United Kingdom paints a picture of dangerous conditions that threaten the well-being of all patients.
Not surprisingly the majority of concerns center around: inadequate staffing levels, poor facility layout and negative attitudes of co-workers. According to one of the survey respondents, the negative attitude stems from simply being overworked, “when you’re pulling every way to care for patients, your patience and tolerance can be affected.”
Echoing the trend, most survey respondents could identify how the staffing issues specifically translated to an incident involving patient harm or injury. The most common errors include (from the 600 nurse survey):
- Failure to monitor and respond to oxygen saturation- 131 episodes
- Misidentification of patients- 77 times
- Bedrail entrapment– 52 times
- Misplaced feeding tubes– 50 occasions
- Misadministration of insulin- 49 times
- Severe scalding- 8 times
The nurses and front-line health care workers that I come into contact with always impress me with their true commitment to serving the patient. Unfortunately, when nurses are pushed to the breaking point in terms of work loads and exceedingly burdensome staffing ratios, problems do arise.
Rather than heap all the fault on the nurses who are on duty at the time on an incident, more scrutiny should be placed on the managers and executives who impose such drastic working conditions. Without extensive changes to improve staffing levels at nursing homes and hospital, I fear that many well-qualified people will be driven from their life-changing roles.