Your safety depends on nursing numbers
This stressful work culture often further leads to rapid nurse turnover, creating a decrease in the number of experienced nurses on a unit to care for critically ill patients effectively.
The nursing profession is one of the most trusted professions in America.
The role of a nurse is more than just someone who takes care of the sick and administers medication. When taking a closer look at the daily task of the nurse, your first thought probably isn’t someone sitting down for 45 minutes next to a patient while looking at graduation pictures of their grandkids, or listening while a patient talks about the struggles faced at home that has never been mentioned to anyone else before that point. Or sitting down, listening and providing emotional support and condolences to family members as they reflect and express moments of joy and sadness while sharing stories about a recently deceased loved one. Through these tasks, we become more than just health care workers but trusted individuals in the community who you can talk to and someone you can trust with your life both figuratively and literally.
In most cases, other than giving birth, a hospital visit is not where most people would want to be and often creates a sense of fear. Usually, I would say there is nothing to be afraid of. Still, in today’s climate, there is a reason to be frightened. There is ample evidence that provides a clear link between patient safety and lack of complications and nurses’ workload. I can speak from experience that working through COVID has transformed the nature of caregiving and health care delivery as a whole and has further highlighted concerns about patient safety in hospitals and nursing burnout.
Nursing burnout can be described as emotional exhaustion that reduces a nurse’s energy and work efficiency. Due to added tasks and the increased number of patient assignments and more severely ill patients, there is no time to stop and think critically during your 12-hour shift, mostly spent running around on your feet with your computer in tow. Instead, nurses have become forced to be more task-oriented on autopilot, drastically increasing the risk for errors, further leading to feelings of frustration and lack of motivation.
When we think about safety in the hospital setting, our first concern is the safety of the patients. However, a safe environment and healthy work culture take both staff and patient safety into account. I can speak from experience that unsafe work conditions create a stressful work environment that leads to toxic work cultures. Toxic work culture, in this case, is one where the nurse experiences stress due to unmanageable and unsafe nurse-patient ratios.
Creating a toxic work culture can cause potential accidental harm to patients. Nurses are overburdened and unable to effectively work as a collaborative team in an already stressful profession. This stressful work culture often further leads to rapid nurse turnover, creating a decrease in the number of experienced nurses on a unit to care for critically ill patients effectively.
The Nurse Staffing Standards for Hospital Patient Safety and Quality Care Act is a bill currently being proposed in Congress. It would mandate safe nurse-patient ratios nationally. I urge you to call/email your legislator to vote for minimum nurse-patient ratios and contact your state nursing organization to learn more on how you may assist in advocating for staff ratios because your life may depend on it on your next unexpected hospital visit.