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Are overworked staff the biggest danger at a hospital?

On Behalf of | Aug 29, 2022 | Hospital Errors

Like in many other industries, Rhode Island’s healthcare sector is short of workers. Many hospitals and clinics are looking for nurses, aides and other key employees. If they have not hired enough people, they may force their staff to work long shifts and take overtime. Shifts themselves might be shorthanded, with doctors and nurses responsible for many more patients than they were just a few years ago.

All of this means that the next time you or a loved one goes to the hospital, you might not get the standard of care that you deserve. Severe shortages in nurses and other healthcare professionals are straining many facilities to the breaking point, putting patients in danger of becoming victims of medical malpractice.

Not enough nurses to cover the ICU

The standard for American ICUs is to have one nurse on duty per two patients. But if there are not enough nurses to keep up this ratio, there might be three or four patients per nurse for some shifts. This may not sound that bad, but it is considered to be a highly unsafe situation for patients sick or injured enough to require an ICU stay. The less time and attention a nurse has for each patient under their care, the more likely they are to make a potentially disastrous mistake. This is true no matter how well-meaning or experienced the nurse might be. Nurses who are exhausted or burned out from overwork are also more prone to errors.

Hospitals owe their patients a legal duty to provide a certain level of care. Falling below that level because they are short-staffed is the hospital’s fault. Nobody should lose a loved one or suffer unnecessary health problems because of errors or neglect caused by a lack of doctors or nurses on duty.