Nurse burnout, short-staffing detracts from quality patient care

Chicago workers and business owners might know all too well that being short-staffed at work can negatively impact employees and their customers. When fewer workers are responsible for getting more work done, quality may lack because workers get burned out. Recent research suggests that this is exactly what happens in hospitals and assisted living facilities when there are not enough nurses on staff.

Nurses get burned out, and as a result, patients may suffer serious and harmful consequences ofnursing home negligence or hospital negligence. Injuries could include bed sores, medication errors or even death. According to researchers, understaffing is a dangerous practice in far too many health care facilities and nursing homes throughout the entire country due to budget cuts and other money-saving efforts.

A study published in the American Journal of Infection Control says nurse burnout, caused by overwork and a lack of administrative support, is a common contributor to medical malpractice. Nurses dogged by stress reach a breaking point that causes them to “detach” from work.

The study centered on the year 2006 and infection rates of patients in over 160 hospitals. The data was tied to two surveys. One survey followed nurse-patient ratios and another survey followed reports of job burnout amongst more than 7,000 direct-care nurses.

The average nurse was responsible for the care of nearly six patients. Under these conditions, about eight patients out of every 1,000 contracted urinary tract infections from catheters. The rate of contracted infections increased when a nurse took on the care of an extra patient. Similar results were seen with surgical infections.

Researchers concluded that nurse burnout, even more than short-staffing, posed the greatest safety risks for patients. Stress experts say the nurse burnout rate of about 30 percent is fueled by negative attitudes and tiredness traced back to “bad management.” Study authors concluded that a 20 percent reduction in burnout could cut the rate of annual infections by thousands.

Source: Philadelphia Post Inquirer, “Penn study examines link between nurse burnout, care,” Don Sapatkin, July 30, 2012

Nursing Negligence


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