"The Importance of Adequate Healthcare Staffing"

"A healthcare facility needs adequate and safe levels of staffing to function well and administer care both safely and efficiently. Adequate staffing levels ensure better care for patients and reduces nurse fatigue, prevent burnout, and increase patient satisfaction. However, despite this, the healthcare industry has been known for being severely understaffed, especially when it comes to nurses.

This is for a variety of reasons, including reducing costs and a shortage of viable nurses. However, research has repeatedly shown that the cost of hiring more nurses is offset by the benefits of an adequately staffed healthcare facility.

Despite the evidence pointing to the importance of proper healthcare staffing, California is the only state that has taken measures to introduce laws dictating mandatory minimum staffing levels. While some other states have legislation mandating the formation of a staffing plan or committee, this isn’t as helpful or enforceable.

In this article, we’re going to delve into the importance of adequate healthcare staffing, focusing on appropriate and “safe” levels of nurse staffing, why this is necessary, and the many benefits it provides. 

Concerns Associated With Inadequate Healthcare Staffing

Inadequate healthcare staffing can endanger patients’ lives, lead to burnout, and worsen overall patient care. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, all baby boomers will be at least 65 years old by 2030. They will require further care services as they age, and there may be even more shortages and worse understaffing issues.

Inadequate Healthcare Staffing Endangers Patients

Research shows that shortages and inadequate staffing are linked to higher rates of infections, patient falls, medication errors, and even mortality. This is because nurses have too much work to juggle and cannot spend enough time on each patient, resulting in missed care.

A survey from the American Nurses Association (ANA) shows the extent of this. More than half of the nurses surveyed responded that they didn’t have sufficient time to spend on every patient. A survey by the Massachusetts Nurses Association showed that 90% of nurses said that they don’t have enough time to provide emotional support and comfort to patients and family members. In contrast, 86% stated that they didn’t even have enough time to spend on patient education.

In fact, short-staffing can even increase the risk of death by as much as 4-6%, with this risk being especially high within the first five days of hospital admission.

Short-Staffing Leads to Overworking and Burnout

With high patient-to-nurse ratios, nurses get exhausted because of the sheer amount of work they complete. According to the American Nurses Association (ANA), 96% of nurses were fatigued at the start of their shifts, and 54% reported an excessive workload. Because of this, healthcare staff can face fatigue and burnout, which include both physical and mental symptoms. Some of these include headaches, insomnia, irritability, back pain, depression, high blood pressure, and weight gain.

While healthcare facilities try and balance patient-to-nurse ratios, this does not take into account the complexity of care nor the characteristics of the ward. This is made worse by the fact that there are no evidence-based nurse staffing guidelines for hospitals and other healthcare facilities to follow and no laws requiring organizations to ensure safe staffing levels. Thus, nurses are overworked and are unable to devote the appropriate amount of time to each patient. This results in poorer results, burnout and leads to nurses quitting the profession.

Understaffing Can Worsen the Nursing Shortage

Research has shown that 40% of U.S. nursing units are understaffed, while 33% of them are inadequately staffed. Understaffing leads to nurses being overworked and either switching to part-time jobs or quitting the profession altogether. One survey showed that 45% of nurses planned to change their careers in the next 1-3 years, with more than 33% considering jobs outside the nursing field.

The Benefits of Safe Staffing in Nursing

We cannot emphasize the benefits of safe staffing in nursing enough. Evidence has shown that adequate nurse staffing can provide a host of benefits, including higher quality of care, reduced likelihood of death within 30 days of admission, increased levels of patient satisfaction, and nurse retention.

Adequate Staffing Improves Patient Outcomes

One of the reasons safe staffing is so integral is because it improves patient outcomes. California is the only state to mandate a minimum nurse-to-patient ratio, and after doing so, it saw vast improvements in patient outcomes. This included a 24% reduction in time spent in the ICU, a 31% reduction in time spent in surgical departments, and 13.9% fewer surgical deaths.

Safe Staffing Increases Patient Satisfaction

In addition to patient care improvement, adequate medical staffing also improves patient satisfaction rates. Because nurses can devote the appropriate amount of time to patients and better cater to their needs, they can provide a higher quality of care. In addition to improving patient satisfaction, this can also increase Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) scores.

Proper Healthcare Staffing Reduces Patient Care Costs

Safe staffing can even reduce patient care costs by decreasing the duration of hospital stays, chances of readmission, and patient injuries. A better ratio of nurses to patients can ensure that the correct procedures are being followed and prevent adverse events that may extend hospital stays.

Safe Staffing Prevents Nurse Burnout

Poor nurse-to-patient ratios lead to emotional and physical exhaustion, being overworked, and eventually, fatigue and burnout. This even leads to RNs and LPNs quitting the profession altogether, further worsening the nurse shortage. A larger staff does the exact opposite by keeping nurses energized and preventing burnout.

Use Interim Healthcare’s Healthcare Staffing Services

Since a better nurse-to-patient ratio benefits everyone, including patients, nurses, and hospitals, it’s unclear why safe staffing in nursing isn’t more widespread. This is especially confusing given that the cost of extra staff is offset by an increase in efficiency and patient outcomes.

If your healthcare facility is short on nurses or other healthcare staffing personnel, reach out to us at Interim Healthcare. Our healthcare staffing services include everything from per diem shifts to extended blocked contract positions. No matter your medical staffing needs, we can address them.

Our trained and certified professionals can work in various environments, including hospitals, schools, nursing homes, private physician offices, and more. If you’re in the South St. Louis area and require healthcare staffing services, don’t hesitate to call us at (636) 717-9292 or contact us here."

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