1. Mennick, Fran BSN, RN


Things look different from a nurse's-eye view


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Although it's obvious to most nurses that the nursing shortage negatively affects patient care, other hospital staff have a different perception, according to a recent study.


After surveying random samples of RNs, physicians, chief nursing officers (CNOs), and hospital chief executive officers (CEOs) in 2004 and 2005, Buerhaus and colleagues found that the four groups' perceptions about the effects of the nursing shortage differed. Nurses indicated that the shortage affects the quality of patient care more negatively than any of the other three groups believed it does, while a greater percentage of physicians than CNOs and CEOs recognized the shortage as a negative influence. More RNs and CNOs than physicians and CEOs expressed "considerable concern" that the shortage makes it more difficult for nurses to detect complications early and ensure patients' safety. The four groups did agree that the nursing shortage negatively affects the nurse-patient relationship, bed availability, and the timeliness and efficiency of care.


The authors note with concern that it seems that physicians and CEOs "do not associate nurses with patient safety or might not understand the impact nurses have in detecting complications early before they worsen and threaten a patient's life." They contend that improving teamwork and communication among all hospital staff will become increasingly important as the shortage worsens. The authors suggest that interdisciplinary classes focused on improving patient safety and care quality may help providers work together to promote patient safety even when nurses are in short supply.


Fran Mennick, BSN, RN


Buerhaus PI, et al. Health Aff 2007;26(3):853-62.