With a total of 3 million nurses, this sub-category of healthcare workers is the largest sub-category in the United States. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that between 2014 and 2022, there will be a need for 1.2 million new nurses to enter the field, a need that inevitably will not be met. This is because between 2010 and 2030, much of the Baby Boomer generation will have reached senior citizen age and will total at around 69 million people, most of whom will need care.
In addition, by 2024, 700,000 nurses are estimated to be retiring or leaving the field in some capacity. Another part of the problem is that nursing schools do not have enough facilities and faculty to handle the increasing number of nursing school applicants, and have actually denied almost 80,000 applicants in 2012 alone.
As the number of patients needing care increases, and as the number of nurses reaching retirement age increases, the demand for new RNs also increases. In short, nurses are understaffed and overworked; they are a hot commodity in today’s healthcare system.
But this is more than just a shortage of nurses. This manifests as a pattern of nurse understaffing across the U.S., which results in unsafe working conditions for nurses all across the nation. Read on to learn just how bad the problem is.
Nurses Go On Strike
Mid-June of this year, over 5,000 nurses went on strike for 7 days to protest the lack of concern their employers had for workplace safety and workplace violence prevention. Similarly, in March of this year, 1,200 nurses went on strike demanding a resolution to the staffing problem they were facing. Without an attractive healthcare plan for its nurses, the strikers argued that their employer was not doing its part to attract nurses to work with them.
Registered Nurses have a very dangerous job that is made more dangerous by understaffing. For a detailed description of all their workplace hazards, click here.
What Is Being Done To Fix The Staffing Issue?
In New York, the Safe Staffing For Quality Care Act was just passed. While the title of this act seems to prioritize patients, its focus is to make sure that nurses are not over-worked, which should reduce the amount of injuries that this demographic of healthcare workers suffers. Among other regulations, the act stipulates that there be set-in-stone ratios for nurses to patients in all healthcare facilities in the state. For example, the act states that for every one nurse, there can be only one trauma emergency patient, two first-stage labor patients, and three pediatric patients.
In Pennsylvania, a similar problem found a different solution. The Pennsylvania State Nurses Association (PSNA) proposed a solution that centered on committee decision-making rather than ratio solutions to the staffing shortage. Instead of delegating a specific amount of allowable patients per nurse, PSNA worked with the Pennsylvania Joint State Government Commission to propose that nursing staffing decisions should be made by staffing committees that include bedside nurses. This way, nurses who will actually be staffed on particular assignments have a say in their assignments. The bill that would put this staffing committee system into place was proposed early in 2015 and has yet to pass.
What Does Short-Staffing Do To Nurses?
By nature, nurses care deeply about the well-being of their patients. Therefore, if a hospital or a clinic is short-staffed and a patient requires an extra hour of care than the nurse had been assigned for the day, that nurse will likely work overtime to ensure that this patient is taken care of. If most nurses are faced with an overwhelming patient need for extra care, this means most nurses are working more than they were told they would work. This can lead to exhaustion, which in turn can lead to unsafe patient handling practices.
Lifting patients is a big part of being a nurse. Patients sometimes need to be lifted to go to the restroom, to get out of bed, or have specific parts of their body lifted to access the areas that need care. If a nurse is tired and is trying to lift a patient, the likelihood that this nurse will suffer some sort of back injury or strain is understandably greater. Beyond physical injuries, the stress of working long hours at a high-anxiety job can take a toll on a person’s mental health. In sum, nurses are suffering at work as a result of the widespread short-staffing in the nursing industry.
Are You Being Overworked?
If you are a nurse working in an understaffed facility, you may have been injured on the job. If this is the case, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation. You should contact a workers’ compensation lawyer as soon as possible to discuss how they can help you get the compensation you deserve for your medical bills and lost wages.