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Fewer Nurses + More Burnout = Higher Rates of Infection, Neglect

Troubling new research indicates a domino-effect of substandard care:

That there are fewer nursing teachers, which means there are fewer new graduating nurses, which means the nurses who are employed are quickly burned out which ultimately means more patients are suffering from higher rates of infection and neglect.

West Palm Beach elder neglect lawyers know that nursing is a necessary and demanding field that is often undervalued in our society. That said, nurses and employers remain responsible for their patients’ level of care. When that falls below a certain standard, it can mean life or death.

In fact, a new study from the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing indicates that for every one patient that was added to a nurse’s workload, there was one additional hospital-acquired infection logged per 1,000 patients. That works out to about a 17 percent increase.

If a nurse was forced to take on 10 percent more patients, the study determined that it would result in two more surgical site infections and one more catheter-associated infections per 1,000 patients.

The research was the result of surveying more than 7,000 nurses and analyzing data from more than 160 hospitals.

It’s no secret that nurses have been reporting burnout for a long time. But when a study indicates that more than a third of nurses report “high levels” of burnout, you should find it alarming.

Although, perhaps it is not surprising, given another recent study indicating that the nursing shortage reported in recent years isn’t likely to dissipate anytime soon.

To take a closer look:

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says we already have about a quarter million fewer nurses in this country than what we need. By 2025, that shortage is expected to double.

The Joint Commission, which is a national agency responsible for accrediting hospitals, says that we can already attribute an estimated 100,000 preventable hospital deaths EACH YEAR to a shortage in nurses. If the shortage continues as expected, we’ll be seeing far more of these preventable deaths – particularly in nursing homes, which are generally not a nurse’s first choice of employment options.

Right now, there are about 20 states that have mandated nurse-to-patient ratios. Florida lawmakers toyed with similar legislation here back in 2010, but it ultimately failed. Some hospitals have their own policies, but they aren’t legally bound by those.

Although some may assume that not many people want to go into nursing – after all, as we said, it is quite demanding and, again, undervalued. However, the issue has more to do with a lack of qualified people to teach them.

We know that nursing school enrollment shot up in 2007 for the 7th year in a row. However, nearly 31,000 of those had to be turned away because there was no one to teach them.

A recent survey by the Association of Academic Health Centers indicated that more than 80 percent of medical, nursing and dental schools said there was a problem with finding qualified instructors, and almost half said it was a “severe” problem.

In order to teach nursing at the college level, you usually have to be a medical doctor or have some other similar advanced degree. But those working at a university usually make about $30,000 less than those working at a hospital.

Making a case for them to teach rather than stay can be tough.

What that means is we should unfortunately expect more instances of nursing home abuse in Palm Beach COunty and elsewhere.

Freeman, Mallard, Sharp & Gonzalez — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
Burned-out nurses linked to more infections in patients, By JoNel Aleccia, NBC News

Shortage of teachers means shortage of nurses, By M. Alex Johnson, MSNBC

More Blog Entries:
Surprise Nursing Home Visits Can Yield Disturbing Finds, July 31, 2012, Belle Glade Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers Blog

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