It’s 2022 and we are entering our third year of the pandemic. Omicron is ravaging the country. In Michigan, it’s currently plateaued at 1600 new cases a day. At my hospital, we haven’t completely stopped surgical cases. We are canceling cases due to the nursing shortage. There aren’t enough nurses to watch the patients after surgery overnight. There aren’t enough nurses to monitor patients in the ER, med-surg, ICU and PACU. There are overtime mandatory hours. Nurses are asked to work 20 out of 24 hours. How can that possibly be safe? Is it simply getting out of hand.
What we need to have is an appropriate nurse to patient ratio. The frontline nurses who have too many patients are bound to miss something in the patients’ care and that could be your mom, brother, child. In California, it is mandated at every hospital to have a certain nurse to patient ratio depending on the type of care rendered. The result of this is having more nurses hired who can provide the care necessary for the patients. Why can’t that be in every state?
Some may argue that would close down more hospitals because there aren’t enough nurses. However, that is furthest from the truth. There are more registered nurses now in the USA than ever before and yet we still have this nursing shortage.
This nursing shortage exists because nurses are burnt out and the hospital doesn’t want to pay for more nurses. The hospital administration knows that nurses cannot take care of too many patients and yet they ask them to. They keep hoping new nurses come to replace the retiring nurses. There are more people applying for nursing school now than ever before. When you are chronically overtaxed with patients, you know you aren’t providing the best care that you can. You start to perform sub-optimally, and that eats away at your soul. It gets to you emotionally and physically. It happens to the nurses who want to provide great care but they aren’t able to because there is just too much to be done in a safe manner. If you’re constantly being asked to provide care that isn’t up to standard, you will become demoralized and burned out.
If there is less burnout amongst nurses, more nurses would stay in their career and continue to care for patients. It is satisfying work to care for patients but when it starts to negatively affect nurses, they will make a jump to retire early or go into another career.
Just remember, when you enter a hospital, you are depending on the care of the watchful nurse to ensure your treatments and monitoring for changes. Without appropriate ratios, the nurses can no longer do their duties to the best of their abilities and things will get missed. And that can be the difference between life and death. Is that really fair if it was your loved one?
I think this is the year to ask our state legislators to make a change to get safe staffing ratios. This will make a life and death difference. Thanks for reading.