“When No One Is on Call” – Did you read it?

iStockphoto | Thinkstock
iStockphoto | Thinkstock
Scrubs contributor Theresa Brown recently posted an article in the New York Times that’s resonating like crazy with nurses…especially those who left nursing because of insufficient staffing.
Here are some excerpts from the article:

Bedside nurses are the hospital’s front line, but we can’t do the first-alert part of our jobs if there aren’t enough of us on the floor. More demands for paperwork, along with increasing complexity of care, means the amount of time any one nurse has for all her patients is diminishing. And as hospitals face increasing financial pressure, nurse staffing often takes a hit, because nurses make up the biggest portion of any hospital’s labor costs.

She continues…

Research also shows that when floors are adequately staffed with bedside nurses, the number of patients injured by falls declines. Staff increases lead to decreases in hospital-acquired infections, which kill 100,000 patients every year.

Then, she gets to the heart of the issue for patients…

… having enough nurses is not just about dollars and cents. It’s about limiting the suffering of human beings. When hospitals have insufficient nursing staffs, patients who would have gotten better can get hurt, or worse.

And concludes with this powerful story…

Several months ago I started a new job, and a few weeks in I heard my name being called. A patient getting a drug that can cause dangerous reactions was struggling to breathe. I hurried to her room, only to discover that I wasn’t needed. The other nurses from the floor were already there, stopping the infusion, checking the patient’s oxygen and drawing up the rescue medication.

The patient was rattled, but there were enough nurses to respond, and in the end she was completely fine.

Now picture the same events in a different hospital, one that doesn’t adequately staff, and this time the patient is you. As the drug drips in, you feel a malaise. You breathe deeply but can’t quite get enough air. Your thinking becomes confused, your heart races. Terrified, you press the call light, you yell for help, but the too few nurses on the floor are spread thin and no one comes to help in time. A routine infusion ends with a call to a rapid-response team, a stay in intensive care, intubation, ventilation, death.

This kind of breakdown is not the nurses’ fault, but the system’s. We are not an elastic resource. We can be where we are needed, but only if there are enough of us.

Read the entire story here, then tell us, how is understaffing affecting you? What solutions is your workplace taking (if any?) to alleviate the problem?

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