Shortage of Nursing Staff Impacts Patient Safety

This isn’t exactly a news alert for Indiana medical malpractice attorneys who understand the importance of having adequate numbers of registered nurses in a hospital unit. However, a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine confirms again that patient safety is impacted when nurse staffing target levels are not met.

The researchers used data from a larger academic medical center, and looked for a link between lower-than-optimum nursing staffing levels, and patient safety. The researchers were also looking for a possible link between patient mortality and high patient turnover at the hospital. The researchers found a strong link between increased patient mortality and unit shifts in which registered nurse staffing was eight hours or more below target levels. According to the researchers, this indicates that staffing of registered nurses below target levels increases patient mortality. The researchers also found that there was an increased link between patient mortality and high patient turnover rates. When the hospital unit had high patient turnover in the form of new admissions or transfers, it negatively impacted patient safety.

The researchers are recommending that nursing staff and patient ratios are matched to patient needs for nursing care.

Many medical errors that Indiana medical malpractice lawyers come across can be linked to stressed, overworked and fatigued nurses. Patient care depends very heavily on an optimum nurse-patient ratio. When there are too few nurses in a hospital unit, or when there is a high patient turnover, there can be tremendous stress on nurses. Patients in a situation like this may be at risk of a number of medical errors, including medication errors, overdoses, missed medications, missed monitor alarms and so on.