The Law Offices of John Phebus

Understaffing at hospitals can result in errors

Many Arizona hospital patients know that there are not enough nurses to meet the demand. This shortage leads to medical staff who are often overtaxed, leading to a reduced ability to provide the best care possible. As the baby boomers continue to advance in age, the shortage of nurses is only expected to continue.

In the United States, there are no guidelines dictating the required ratio of nurses to patients. A study that has been published in an online medical journal found that nurses who were in charge of six patients had lower patient mortality rates than those who were in charge of 10 or more patients. Nurses who are responsible for larger numbers of patients are given support staff to help out, but the study also found that having certified nurse aides made little difference.

Safety issues related to understaffing and overtaxing nurses by replacing nurses with CNAs are not new. Reports have shown that fatigue caused by long shifts can lead to errors, some of which can lead to serious or even fatal complications. Although there is not enough research available to determine the right patient-to-nurse ratio, the authors of the study urged hospitals to avoid substituting nurses with support staff.

Hospitals should have an appropriate number of nurses to handle patients' needs. If an error occurs due to a staffing issue or due to nurses who are overworked, the result could be a worsened medical condition for a patient. People who have been harmed in such a manner may want to meet with a medical malpractice attorney to see what options are available.

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