Nurses Take D.C., a nurse-driven grassroots movement, is calling attention to a serious problem in healthcare: the understaffing of healthcare facilities across the country. Unsafe nurse-to-patient ratios are contributing to increased morbidity and mortality for patients. The omissions of important nursing care are “often unrecognized errors affecting patient safety.” Deficient staffing is associated with high burnout rates for nurses and creates unsafe working environments. Nurse-to-patient ratios significantly influence in-hospital mortality.
A study published by Medscape reported that 53% of the nurses surveyed felt unsatisfied with the care provided by the end of a shift and 57% of those nurses felt that patient care is suffering. Another study conducted in 2016 examined the relationship between nurses who worked over time and their perception of the care provided. The findings of the study revealed that a higher ratio of patients per nurse was significantly associated with higher odds of a nurse reporting poor patient safety and poor patient care.
Conversely, higher nurse-to-patient ratios were associated with reduced mortality, medication errors, ulcers, restrain use, infections, and pneumonia. Furthermore, higher staffing levels decreased the risk of in-hospital mortality. Another study found that improved work environments and decreased patient-to-nurse ratios are associated with higher odds that a patient will survive an in-hospital heart attack. The study suggests that patient outcomes are better where nurses have reasonable workloads.
Given the positive impact of safe patient ratios and the fact that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States, New Hampshire should enact legislation to ensure the appropriate staffing of its healthcare facilities. Only 14 states have adopted laws and/or regulations that address nurse staffing in hospitals.
Hospitals and healthcare providers must be held responsible for the harm that results from high patient-to-nurse ratios. The attorneys at Abramson, Brown & Dugan collectively have over 100 years of experience handling all forms of medical malpractice. If you or a loved one has been harmed as a result of understaffing, contact one of our attorneys for a free consultation.
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