Nurse Understaffing Adversely Affects Patients

Reliance on voluntary and mandatory overtime leads to increased nurse burnout
By Jane Parry
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, June 30 (HealthDay News) -- Hospitals are routinely dealing with nurse understaffing through the use of voluntary and mandatory overtime, a practice that leads to adverse patient outcomes and increases nurse burnout, according to an article published in the June issue of the AORN Journal.

Connie Garrett, R.N., of James A. Haley Veterans Hospital in Tampa, Fla., conducted a literature survey to gather information about the use of overtime, the effect of fatigue, nurse burnout and the relationship between staffing patterns and medical errors. She also examined the impact of patient-to-nurse ratios on adverse outcomes and nurse retention, and nurses' own assessments of quality of care.

The survey revealed that inadequate nurse staffing and overwork by nursing staff has a direct relationship with increased risk of medical errors and adverse outcomes, while adequate staffing levels have a positive impact on quality of patient care and nurse retention.

"Inadequate staffing and unrealistic workloads place an unnecessary burden on nursing staff members, reduce the quality of care that nurses are able to provide, lead to fatigue and unachievable expectations," Garrett writes. "Hospital administrators should ensure patient safety by examining how health care is provided in their facilities and changing nurses' working conditions so that they are able to more safely care for patients."

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