There was a recent NBC News article, titled “Burned-out nurses linked to more infections in patients,” that discussed the link between patient infection rates and their correlation to nursing staff workloads. Essentially, the higher the patient load, the higher the likelihood of infection rates in patients due to the nursing staff “cutting corners.”
Additionally, there was a similar article over at KevinMD in a guest post titled, “Patient care suffers when nurses are overloaded with work.” Dr. Burke-Galloway discusses the importance of the nursing workforce and implores readers to take physician and nurse burnout seriously, because it directly impacts the care of patients. She then lists some steps patients can take to help assess the possibility of patient overload.
I cannot disagree with the good doctor. Patient overload and understaffing places a great toll on each individual nurse, as well as the entire unit. The domino effect is undeniable if you’ve ever witnessed a hospital floor functioning while over capacity and understaffed.
It’s downright scary sometimes. I’m not just confessing this as a nurse, but also as a patient. Patients aren’t as naïve as you would think. They figure out understaffing and overcapacity fairly quickly.
Are corners cut? While I’m not outing anyone or admitting to anything, the obvious problem is choosing patient safety over proper sterility. Do you compromise patient safety to adhere to contact precautions and basic hand hygiene practices?
Taking the extra 15-90 seconds to wash your hands or gown and gloves is plenty of time for something “bad” to happen.
It’s choosing between preventing a deadly action that will immediately harm your patient versus an action that has the “potential” to infect your patient.
In that environment, it’s the immediacy of danger that wins every time.
Is it right? No. Is it wrong? No. But yes, it does exist.
And you wonder why nurses harp about inadequate staffing.
Like a broken record.
For more News and Opinion pick up the latest issue of Scrubs magazine, available at a retail store near you!