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The Role of Nursing Shortages in Malpractice Cases

On Behalf of | Mar 19, 2019 | Medical Malpractice

Nursing shortages in hospitals, nursing homes, surgical centers, and other medical facilities increase the workload of nursing staff which can put patients at increased risk of complications or fatal injuries caused by medical errors and a decreased level of care. This is medical malpractice and patients have a right to pursue compensation when they suffer injuries.

Conclusions of JAMA Study

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) studied the correlation between the number of nurses on staff with nursing shortages and patient mortality in hospitals. It was found in hospitals where the number of patients assigned to each nurse was high, surgical patients were at an increased risk of death within 30 days. JAMA’s research found that the number of failure-to-rescue events, medical errors, and instances of job burnout increased with a high ratio of patients per nurse.

Overworked and Stretched Thin

Having an insufficient number of nurses on staff to treat patients undermines patient care. Nurses are overworked with having to monitor more patients. This can lead to increased stress and fatigue, rushing to complete duties, lack of time spent with individual patients, confusion, and a breakdown in communication between staff members.

Patients are put at risk because of:

  • Increased risk of medication errors
  • Improper patient monitoring that could prevent nurses from noticing changes in patients’ conditions
  • Decreased response to the general needs of patients
  • Mistakes in recording patient information
  • Lack of responsiveness in emergency situations

Why Do Nurse-to-Patient Ratios Matter?

A proper nurse-to-patient ratio can prevent medical errors that harm patients and could result in death. For each additional patient added to a nurse’s workload, the patient’s risk of dying increases by 7 percent. And for nurses that face unrealistic workloads, their chance of experiencing burnout increases by almost 23 percent along with a 15 percent increase in job dissatisfaction.

Many nurse-to-patient ratios can be traced back to system problems with the medical facility. While some medical facilities do a good job of maintaining adequate nursing staff, others do not. Running a facility with inadequate nursing staff could be because administrators are trying to keep salary costs as low as possible. It could also be caused by turnover problems because nurses are not getting paid an adequate salary for their work responsibilities. Unfortunately, in the end, it is patient care that suffers from poor nurse-to-patient ratios.