A recently released report by the Leapfrog Group patient safety organization and an op-ed piece in the New York Times shed light on a major factor in hospital injuries: A lack of support for nurses – specifically, understaffing.
In the report, “Nursing Workforce Safe Practices,” Leapfrog states that a large percentage of the hospitals which participated in its most recent voluntary survey failed to meet the organization’s nursing workforce safe practices standard.
Meeting that standard means that the hospital has either fully complied with all 21 of Leapfrog’s nursing workforce safe practices – a list that includes adequate staffing of skilled nurses in each hospital unit and inclusion of nurses at all levels of hospital leadership – or the hospital has achieved “Magnet” status from the American Nursing Credentials Center.
According to the Leapfrog report, 40 percent of the hospitals it surveyed fully complied with its 21 nursing workforce safe practices, while only 16 percent had achieved Magnet status.
Leapfrog states that these results actually were slightly encouraging. A year ago, those numbers were 52 percent and 15.5 percent, respectively. However, “there’s much more to be done,” the organization states.
In the Times op-ed piece, author Alexandra Robbins provides a glimpse of what it looks like when hospitals fail to provide adequate support for nurses.
Robbins notes that assigning four patients per nurse is widely considered to be the “safe maximum.” However, the nurses she encountered in a hospital while doing research for a book were often assigned seven to nine patients at a time.
She notes that many nurses are afraid they will be punished if they speak out about their concerns about understaffing.
For example, at one New York hospital, several nurses were reportedly threatened with arrest and escorted out of the building when they raised concerns about understaffing at the hospital’s National Nurses Week breakfast, according to Robbins.
Why Should Patients Be Concerned About Hospitals’ Lack of Support for Nurses?
Nurses play a critical role in today’s health care industry. Leapfrog notes that nurses comprise “the largest group of health care professionals.” They are directly involved in patient treatment at all levels of care. As a result, nurses have a direct impact on patient safety and the quality of care that patients receive.
When hospitals put too much strain on nurses by overworking them and otherwise forcing them to engage in unsafe practices, it can lead to patients suffering serious and even fatal injuries.
Robbins reports that “dozens of studies” have found that understaffing of nurses in hospitals greatly increases the risk of patient falls, complications, infections and deaths.
It also leads to higher failure-to-rescue and readmission rates and longer hospital stays for patients.
For the sake of nurses and for our sake as patients, Robbins writes, “we must insist that hospitals treat them right.”
Medical Malpractice Litigation Helps to Address Patient Safety Issues
At Powers & Santola, LLP, we agree with Robbins. From our experience in representing medical malpractice victims and their families in Albany, Syracuse and throughout New York State, we have seen how many patient injuries can be traced to cost-cutting, profit-boosting measures such as understaffing of nurses.
In order to improve patient safety, this situation needs to change. Our medical malpractice attorneys believe the civil justice system plays an important role in addressing this issue.
In addition to providing just compensation for victims, medical malpractice litigation can force hospitals to change their policies and procedures and the conditions that lead to patient harm – including nurse staffing issues.
If you or a loved one has suffered serious injury that you believe may be attributed to hospital negligence, please contact us today to discuss your case in a free and confidential consultation.