Yesterday the Joint Committee on Public Health heard more than 5 hours of testimony by nearly 20 panels regarding the issue of nurse staffing and its impact on patients. For more than 5 hours hospital administrators continued to refuse to accept any limit on the number of patients a nurse is forced to care for at one time.
This refusal to accept any limit on the number of patients a nurse is assigned at one time comes in the face of a new study of registered nurses in Massachusetts establishing once again that poor RN staffing levels continue to cause significant harm. The survey, conducted by Opinion Dynamics Corporation, of RNs (nearly 70% of respondents not members of the MNA), finds that fully 90% of RNs say patient care is suffering due to understaffing, with devastating results for patients:
77% report an increase in medication errors due to understaffing (a 10% increase since 2003);68% report complications or other problems for a patient (a 4% increase); 59% report readmission of patients due to understaffing (a 5% increase); 53% report injury or harm to patients; and 50% report that poor staffing leads to longer stays for patients. Most alarmingly, more than 1-in-3 nurses (34%) report patient deaths directly attributable to having too many patients to care for (an increase over the 29% reported by nurses in 2003);
According to Chris Anderson, who directed the project, The same circular dynamic we found in our 2003 survey is still in full effect patient care is suffering because of understaffing, and more nurses are leaving the beside because of understaffing. The RN survey found that 89% of RNs agree that nurses are leaving the profession because they are burned out from high patient loads. Among nurses who stopped working in an acute care setting, short staffing is the number one reason cited for leaving the bedside.