Does inadequate nurse staffing lead to patient harm?

It is no secret that people who go into the hospital for care rely heavily on nurses to ensure they receive proper care and are comfortable throughout their stay in the hospital. In order for the patients to remain safe and receive proper care, the nursing staff has to be properly scheduled and the ratio of nurses to patients has to be adequate. Our Kentucky readers might be interested to learn how improper staffing can lead to patients having problems in the hospital. 

What factors determine what is considered an adequate nursing staff level?

There are several factors that combine to determine how many nurses are needed for each shift. The number of unlicensed assistive personnel is one such factor since they can handle simple requests from patients. Patient acuity is another factor that should be used to determine staffing levels since some patients require more care than others. Education, training and skills of the nurses also matter since not all nurses are accustomed to working in the unit-specific settings.

What does proper nursing staffing accomplish?

Proper nursing staffing can help patients to receive optimal medical care while preventing nurse burnout. With enough nurses on each shift, there is a reduction in medication errors and other medical errors, the mortality rate decreases, and patients don't have as many complications. Generally, patient satisfaction is higher and nurse fatigue is lower when the shifts are adequately staffed.

The nursing service being short staffed isn't an excuse for improper or inadequate medical care. Anyone who has suffered harm because of a nursing shortage should decide if he or she wants to pursue compensation for that harm.

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