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Hospital Understaffing and Medical Malpractice

  • December 3, 2018
  • KBA Attorneys
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Employees at hospitals are continually stretched thin. Nurses and doctors alike always have more than one patient to care for, and that creates a demanding workplace. It also can create a situation in which the patient does not know when they will see their caretakers again. When you’re in the hospital, usually that means you need around the clock care, as something could go wrong at any minute. There is a severe problem of hospital understaffing nowadays that can sometimes leave patients in a serious position, as well as the nurses and doctors taking care of them.

Many nurses report having 4 or more patients throughout a shift, and the patients all have varying levels of care. The fewer people there are on staff at a hospital, the higher the chance of patients passing away due to not being cared for. Blaming the nurses or doctors in some cases can be hard. Bonnie Castillo, who is the director of the Registered Nurses Response Network at National Nurses United (NNU), explains this best. “If you have several patients, and one is having a sudden hemorrhage, and one is having chest pain, and the other is having a stroke or is choking, you have to have enough nurses that can deal with each of those instances and not place one above the other.”

These unfortunate situations have to made on a daily basis across the United States and even the world. The problem is seen as being a shortage of nurses – however, that is not the case. In most places, it becomes an issue of budgeting for the hospital, as those in the stressful positions within hospitals need to be compensated for what they do. It may not be cost-effective to hire more nurses, but when dealing with the lives of other people, cost-effectiveness may need to be last on the list of priorities. California is an example of a state that has implemented a staffing ratio in hospitals, meaning that nurses can only have a certain amount of patients to look after. The implementation of the staffing ratio has been tied to improvements in patient care and a decrease in minor emergencies that frequently happen in most hospitals.

The effects of staffing ratios in California was shown in a 2011 study published in Health Services Research. According to The Scientific American, “California hospitals had 14 percent fewer postsurgical deaths than New Jersey and 11 percent fewer than Pennsylvania when matched for variables other than staffing ratios. The start of staffing ratios was associated with rapid decreases in mortality rates but even more in “failure to rescue”—the capacity of a hospital to save the life of a patient who experiences a complication.” It was also shown that hospitals that are well staffed typically have patients using up fewer days in the intensive care unit, and that opens up more spaces for those who need to be in intensive care.

Hospital administrations have to run the hospital like a business, however, when that business is supposed to save lives, their budget could quite literally lead to life or death situations every day. Nurses and doctors must be compensated fairly and must not be overworked, and patients need to be cared for. No matter what pplosition you find yourself in, you can trust that KBA Attorneys will make sure you are taken care of. Whether it be unfair wages or medical malpractice, we will ensure that justice is served.