Unsafe Staffing In Hospitals

Hospitals are being run more like businesses than health care facilities, which has spurred the current trend in unsafe staffing.

Many medical professionals are shocked and appalled by the deteriorating patient care conditions in hospitals across the country, and what they see as a blatantly indifferent attitude on the part of administrators towards nurses' concerns about safety standards and cuts in services. Yet not nearly enough steps have been taken to remedy this deplorable situation nor to eradicate its potential threat to patients. Many hospitals simply dismiss recommendations and concerns regarding unsafe conditions, inadequate staffing levels, and inappropriate placement of severely ill patients, in favor of the almighty dollar. As a result, nurses are leaving hospitals in droves because of the overwhelming patient loads and mandatory overtime

Nurses are particularly alarmed and affected by the consistent pattern of under staffing and hospitals' failures to recruit and retain qualified RNs. After all, it is an incredibly unsafe practice to pressure RNs to continually work excessively long hours to cover staffing shortages. It not only exposes patients to potential risk, but also threatens the license of every RN.

Concerns over unsafe staffing, reckless cost cutting, and other conditions have prompted several reform efforts. In addition, landmark legislation to reverse the dangerous deterioration in safe staffing has been enacted. Unfortunately, none of these reforms as of yet, have successfully solved the problem of unsafe staffing. The amount of students entering nursing colleges today has continued to decline; a trend that can also be blamed on budget cuts, due to the fact that limited educational programs mean a limited number of students. However another reason fewer people are enrolling in nursing school is that, in the past, nursing was one of the only career choices a woman had. Today, there are so many other alternatives that nursing as a career almost seems "outdated" to the modern woman. Today's working women have far more opportunities to find professions which offer them more respect, better pay and more pleasant working conditions

The situation, however, is not hopeless; it is never too late to institute some positive changes. When hospitals are downsizing, the majority of the recruiting programs are put on the back burner, or become sidetracked by trying to attract qualified nurses from other organizations. A much more productive approach, in both the short and the long term, would be to focus attention on recruitment programs that attract qualified people, as well as retention programs which keep qualified nurses from abandoning their chosen profession. Recruiters can, for instance, develop valuable relationships with universities which are designed to allow more internships and externships. Designing effective preceptor programs with experienced staff members allows new graduates to enter into the field of nursing with confidence, loyalty, and a feeling of value, not only to their employer, but to society as a whole.

To achieve this objective, the government needs to establish safe ratios of patients to licensed nurses. It additionally needs to severely limit the unsafe replacement of licensed nurses with unlicensed personnel by recognizing that certain procedures require expertise based on education, skill and the experience to make proper judgments. When not properly executed, procedures such as placing feeding tubes and suctioning a patient's airways can lead to hospital-acquired infections and could eventually result in death. This is not just an ethical issue, but a legal one. Even if a hospital sees itself as nothing but a money-making organization, the legal and subsequent financial fallout from improper practices can be costly from a myriad of perspectives.

The issue of unsafe staffing is as complex as its possible solutions. Even if the supply were eventually able to meet the demand, once the skill level of the nursing supply were examined, a deficit would most likely continue to exist for nurses with strong medical backgrounds and technology-intensive training. What is needed today is more than just protests over unsafe staffing practice; Changes need to be made in regards to the practices that lead to those deficiencies. As long as the industry giants continue to put profits ahead of health, the deterioration of health care standards will continue to prosper until the problem is healed at the source.

© High Speed Ventures 2011