We all know how it works: more skilled nurses on staff means better patient care. And isn’t better patient care not just a goal, but the goal?
Of course it is.
So why are hospitals so frequently understaffed and nurses so often overburdened with heavy patient loads? Here, the growing concern for issues tied to unrealistic nurse-to-patient ratios is explored, and a much-needed call for reform is delivered:
Mead, 32, left her career in international relations to become a nurse only a year ago—but she’s already starting to feel burned out. That’s why she decided to take the financial hit of an extended unpaid vacation rather than break the strike: One of National Nurses United’s key bargaining objectives is to increase the number of nurses at the hospital, which would give her fewer patients at a time to deal with in the cardiac surgery unit where she works.
“I am incredibly exhausted after every shift that I work, so mentally and physically exhausted,” said Mead, a slim blonde, hunching into her parka. “I feel like some days I think of everything I did that day, and I think, ‘I could’ve done this for this person, if I’d just had the time to get to it.’ And I have to convince myself that I did my best to prioritize what the most important things are for each person, because I couldn’t get to everybody.”
Why won’t the hospital hire more people? It’s not because there aren’t enough nurses around—the much-talked-about “nursing shortage” has dissipated. RNs have put off retirement through the bad economy, and nursing schools have doubled their output of new graduates. Washington Hospital Center received 6,316 applications last year, and hired 7.5 percent of them.
“There’s plenty of evidence that there’s a shortage of nursing care, and it’s not solved by anything to do with the hospital supply,” said Linda Aiken, director of the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research at the University of Pennsylvania’s nursing school. “All the shortage of care at the bedside has to do with how much hospitals want to pay nurses, and whether they want to use their resources on something else.”
Interested in reading more? We don’t blame you. Head on over to The Washington Post to view the rest of the article here.
Then, in the comments section below, tell us your thoughts on the issue and the need for more nurses on staff.