Nursing Notes

July 5, 2010

Patient Safety: Why It May Be Getting Worse As Hospitals Lay Off Nurses

Filed under: Nursing — Shirley @ 5:21 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Here is a post from the BNET blog that I found both interesting and informative.  Please go to the source site and read all the comments there.  The comments may cause you to pause and think, or they may just get your ire up, but they are worth reading.  With the upcoming changes to health care in the wind, we nurses need to be standing up for our patients safety and health.  The nurse at the bedside is the best tool we have to have positive patient outcomes.

Please enjoy the following article, then please do click over to read all the comments and maybe leave your own.


By Ken Terry | Jun 14, 2010

As 12,000 nurses prepare to head back to work after a one-day strike against 14 Minnesota hospitals, their central demand — that hospitals add more nurses to safeguard patient safety — remains unmet. It’s unclear whether the hospitals or the nurses will blink as contract talks continue. But a new national study lends some credence to the nurses’ contention that hospitals are cutting corners in patient care.

The study, published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine, notes that hospitals across the country are reporting declining profits because of the recession and increasing numbers of the uninsured. The authors’ analysis of hospital data shows that many hospitals are compensating for this income loss by paring back capital projects and laying off workers. These cutbacks, the researchers speculate, may imperil the quality and safety of hospital care. They urge the federal government to increase public awareness of nurse-to-patient ratios as well as other indicators.

Hospital layoffs, which hit a peak in 2008, continued into the first half of 2010. A survey last November showed that 18 percent of Ohio hospitals planned to fire some employees; last fall, Chicago’s public hospital system laid off hundreds of workers; in March, the Jackson Health System in Miami announced plans to lay off thousands of employees; and recently, New York City’s Health and Hospitals Corp. said it would let 500 people go to close a budget gap.

It’s unclear how many nurses were involved in these layoffs. But last year, it was reported that nurse recruitment firms were having a hard time finding jobs for all of their clients. An article about the problems facing graduates of a North Carolina nursing school noted that many older nurses were staying on the job because of shrunken retirement savings and that hospitals were being more cautious about hiring new nurses as the number of admissions and procedures dropped.

So let’s grant the possibility that the nursing unions aren’t just trying to protect their members’ jobs but are also genuinely concerned about patient care. Then the question becomes, how safe were patients even before the recession? The answer, as we all know, is that hospital care is very unsafe. Recent studies show that little progress has been made since the 1999 Institute of Medicine report that said that up to 98,000 people a year were dying from medical errors in hospitals.

While the solution to that problem is multifaceted and lengthy, one would hope that recession-induced layoffs won’t make it worse. From that vantage point, perhaps hospitals should look more closely at ways to reduce the waste in their processes before they lay off the front-line nurses on whom patient care largely depends.

Regular readers of this blog will recall that a few weeks ago, I suggested that nurse strikes be prohibited to protect patients. I haven’t backed away from that position, despite my sympathy for the nurses’ plight. I still believe that, like police officers and firefighters, nurses perform an essential public function and should not be allowed to strike. But on the other hand, it’s incumbent upon the government to ensure that hospitals are adequately staffed to provide high-quality health care.

Visit the original post by clicking here.

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1 Comment »

  1. Phenomenal article. Insightful and entertaining as always!

    Comment by acai order — August 26, 2010 @ 11:25 pm | Reply

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