Nursing Notes

September 24, 2009

How many nurses on duty? Likely not enough |

Here is another article that discusses the impact on our patients when staffing is cut to the bone and one nurse is spread so thin that she can’t even stop to breathe.

We all need to pay attention to the nurses who are talking about why we are leaving this profession in large numbers.  The shortage is real.  We need to be looking for ways to keep our nurses, not run them off.

How many nurses on duty? Likely not enough
Staffing levels must be considered in investigations of medical failings.
Last update: September 23, 2009 – 11:00

Nurses have long warned about the negative impact of nurse staffing cuts on patient outcomes. The unfortunate incident at St. John’s Hospital in Maplewood (“Help came too late in the ER,” Sept. 18) illuminates our concerns.

Unlike the hospital administration, which has pledged to examine innocuous issues such as “staff training,” every colleague I have who reads the story about Raymond Newmaster, a stroke victim who waited nearly 90 minutes to be examined — and who ultimately died — is probably imagining the same scenario.

What other challenges faced the nurse in the ER that night in 2007? How many other patients was she attending? How sick were they? How many other nurses were on shift? How many other duties was she performing, like trying to get her documentation done, attempting to track down physicians, and answering numerous phone calls and requests from families and public safety personnel?

Staff training? Oh, if it were only that — it only scratches the surface.Hospitals continue to cut nurse staffing, adding responsibilities and workload to an already stressed nursing staff. And the consequences will continue to be dire. Patients will fall. Nurses will have no time to assess. No time to reassess. No time to treat. No time to teach. Perhaps staffing was stretched so thin that night, the nurse couldn’t even have had time to touch Newmaster’s wife’s shoulder and say, “I need to tend to a heart attack right now, but you can be my eyes and ears. Look for signs like this or this for me.”

Until inadequate RN staffing levels are considered integrally related to medical errors, we will not be able to truly address the 98,000 preventable annual deaths in U.S. hospitals. Until we commit to nurse staffing levels that meet the needs of the patient at the moment in time, we will continue to have adverse events such as this.

Linda Slattengren is president of the Minnesota Nurses Association.

How many nurses on duty? Likely not enough |

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