Another crisis is about to grip our country. As we attempt to get a over our finances, a nursing shortage is beginning to effect patient care and seems to be a problem that will plague us for many years to come. Nurse Tom reports that nursing shortages in hospitals and nursing homes are an ever increasing problem for patient safety. The safety problems created by under-staffing have become an even bigger problem for hospitals has they can no longer receive Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement for event determined to be preventable or commonly referred to as ‘never events.’
How extensive is the nursing shortage?
In 2007, a survey completed by the American Hospital Association found that hospitals require an additional 116,000 RN’s to fill immediate vacancies. Statistics from Flotsam and Jetsam Blog report current nursing shortages at 14% of hospitals where there is a severe vacancy. By 2025 the nursing shortage is expected to increase to 500,000 RN’s- the most highly trained nurses.
Increased liability risk for hospitals and nursing homes
“As I see it, nursing is the most important area to focus on when it comes to preventing hospital mishaps,” according to Tom Sharon, creator of the Legal Nurse Consultant website. Hospital Corporation of America is currently facing a class-action lawsuit claiming the company engaged in systematic under-staffing of RN’s throughout all of its hospitals. The lawsuit claims that the ‘systematic under-staffing’ places patients at increased risk for complications such as infections, bedsores and death.
Nurses are on the front lines of responding to patient needs. If nurses are not there to attend to patients it is no secret that serious medical problems may go unattended. A new wave of lawsuits is being filed against hospitals for under-staffing. It is increasingly becoming not a question of what was done improperly, but a question as to what medical treatment was not provided.
A cure for the nursing shortage
There is no immediate cure for the nurse shortage problem. The Registered Nurse Safe Staffing Act, recently introduced federal legislation, would ensure that each hospital generate a staffing system that ensures appropriate number of registered nurses on each shift and in each unit of the hospital.
Other ideas include using volunteers to help with basic tasks such as monitoring patients in waiting areas and hospital rooms to make sure nothing happens while they are recovering form a procedure or waiting to see a doctor. As nurse Tom says, ‘There’s no skill to that. Just sit there and watch to prevent falls.”
The nursing shortage’s impact on nursing home
Residents of nursing home will likely see a bigger impact that other medical care recipients. Many skilled nurses who currently work in nursing home will be sucked out of those facilities and into higher paying nursing positions in hospitals. A nurse in a hospital may earn several times what the pay rate for nurses is in a nursing home. Unfortunately, until a priority is placed on providing quality nursing home care, there will likely be a continued correlation between inadequately staffed facilities in incidents involving nursing home injury and neglect.