Wichita, KS -- (ReleaseWire) -- 12/23/2014 --Hospitals have been short-staffing their nurses for monetary budget reasons, which has had a negative impact on the quality of care administered to patients. Studies published by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) have shown a correlation between short-staffing of nurses and higher rates of poor health results for patients.
"The nursing staff is usually the first to be down-sized during budget cuts," says Bradley J. Prochaska, medical malpractice attorney of Prochaska, Howell & Prochaska LLC. "There has been an overall increase in the number of patients who need care, but there are not enough qualified Registered Nurses (RNs) and/or available nursing positions to fill this growing need."
RNs are responsible for medications, intravenous medication administration, patient care plans, and supervising Licensed Practical Nurses. When RNs are forced to treat more patients because of budget cuts, then it is the patients who suffer the most.
The nurse to patient ratio in hospitals is on average 4:1, which gives RNs enough time to adequately care for patients. After hospital budget cuts, however, the nurse to patient ratio usually falls to 8:1 or 9:1.
"Patients in understaffed hospitals are getting minimum care and/or low quality care," says Prochaska. "There is a regression in the health of patients because they are being neglected. Rates of pneumonia and mortality rise when nurses are unable to treat patients adequately on a consistent basis."
Statistics published by AHRQ show that if the nurse per patient ratio was increased by 25 percent, then it would mean a 20 percent decrease in patient mortality each month.
Overworked nurses experience physical, emotional and mental fatigue, which also affects the quality of patient care. Due to the overwhelming workload, many qualified nurses leave the medical field after experiencing "burn out." This results in more unqualified nurses taking positions otherwise filled by RNs.
"When hospitals cut their nursing staffs, they sacrifice long-term success for a short-term monetary gain," says Prochaska. "This failure not only results in the deterioration of patients' health and the overall dissatisfaction of the nursing staff, but also potential medical malpractice claims against the hospital."