Understaffing: A Life or Death Problem


The notion that there is a relationship between nurse and patient satisfaction makes sense. As a nurse, you work longer shifts than just about any other professional on the planet. If you work a long shift in poor conditions with entirely too many patients, you’re more likely to make a mistake. And really, who could blame you? Burnout and exhaustion are both very real problems for nurses.

Tired Nurses Result in Lower Patient Satisfaction

The first things to go when anyone becomes overly tired include patience and compassion. A study sponsored by the National Institute of Nursing Research concluded that patient dissatisfaction is highest when nurses work more than 13 hours in a single shift. Unfortunately, understaffing is a common issue in medical institutions. So, it’s common for your employer to ask you to work double shifts. Statistics even show that a nurse working over 10 hours is nearly three times more likely to dissatisfy their patients than a nurse who works an eight-hour shift.

Understaffing: A Life or Death Problem

An unhappy patient or two because an exhausted nurse working a double shift wasn’t gushing with rainbows and sunshine is hardly the end of the world. Unfortunately, understaffing and overworked nursing staffs is a much deeper problem with more serious results. According to research from the University of Pennsylvania, it is a life or death problem.

The university conducted a study that involved tracking results from 550 different hospitals in California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Florida. Of the 550 hospitals, 56 of them were magnet hospitals. The researchers surveyed nurses to collect information regarding job satisfaction and work environment. They compared these findings to the mortality rate of the hospitals. Statistically, hospitals with unhappy nurses were the same hospitals with the highest mortality rates. So, you owe it to yourself and your patients to make sure you find your position as a nurse satisfying.

Quality Work Environment Results in Quality Care

It’s no secret that an employee performs better in a quality work environment. When most people think about this concept, they think about individuals working in fast food or in retail. If you’re a nurse with experience working in more than one facility, you know firsthand how your work environment affects the quality of the care you provide. As a nurse, you want to feel important and comfortable. You want to know there is an opportunity for you to advance in your career if you aspire to go further and gain more responsibilities.

Utilizing Technology

Advancements in technology can help create an employee-focused workplace geared toward employee satisfaction. Your employer can implement systems that make it possible to self-schedule shifts, trade shifts, develop support groups, and collect staff-driven data. Your employer can collect information with these systems to learn more about what aspects of your work environment need improvement.

Nursing Is a Tough Job

Nursing isn’t a walk in the park. You build a connection with sick patients; anxious family members; and exhausted, stressed-out doctors. You work such long such long hours that it’s dark outside when you go to work and when you come home to grab five or six hours of sleep before going back.

As a nurse, you spend most of the day on your feet. You also frequently lift heavy loads. Roughly 80 percent of all nurses experience muscle and joint pain. In some cases, compassion fatigue becomes a problem. Compassion fatigue is a type of burning out in which an exhausted nurse stops caring about the quality of care (both personal and professional). Once a nurse reaches this point, time off work is necessary to recover. You owe it to yourself and your patients to speak to your employer before you burn out. The last thing you want to do is make a regrettable and preventable mistake because of it.

What You Should Take Away

While most of these study results and statistics are not something a seasoned nurse finds too surprising, they do serve as confirmation. If you don’t take care of yourself and your employer doesn’t support you, you will struggle to perform at your best.

A large portion of the responsibility is on hospitals and medical institutions to value investing time and money in nursing satisfaction. In the end, nursing satisfaction is a win-win-win for your employer, you, and your patients.

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