I recently had the honor of speaking about patient safety speaker at a rally for safe nurse:patient staffing in Washington DC, at an event called Nurses Take DC.
As I wrote in my book, Navigating the C, nurses are the ones who spend the most time with patients and we are most often the ones who will save your life if something goes wrong during your medical care when you are in a hospital or healthcare facility.
Since the merger mania and consolidation of healthcare systems into near monopolies that limit competition within localities, these monster organizations have the upper hand over patients and the people who provide direct care to patients: physicians, nurses, and other health professionals.
With the emphasis on productivity and efficiency (read: profit) comes the push to do more with less in the area of staffing for patient care areas. That means fewer nurses, fewer allied health professionals, and fewer care assistants to take care of you in the hospital. And evidence points to more deaths, more errors, poorer outcomes, and other adverse events as a result.
Medical errors are now the third leading cause of death in the U.S. What are numbers one and two?
Heart disease and cancer.
Rushed, understaffed, burned out, overworked nurses and healthcare providers won’t be as sharp and responsive as those who work under better, well-staffed, less stressful conditions.
It’s up to patients to say something, to have a voice. You can fill out those surveys, yes, they do actually read them, and ask them for a return call from an administrator. Don’t give them fodder to blame the nurses or physicians, speak to a real human who gets the word directly from you so they can’t twist your survey results to blame nurses.
If it took too long for a nurse to answer your call light, they are probably understaffed. The nurse was in another patient’s room at the time or in an emergency and couldn’t get to you, and there was no one else to cover for them. This happens all the time. Every day in hospitals.
I know, there’s no excuse. But when you tell administrators about these situations they will always try to blame the nurse for not being able to multitask, when what they really needed was to clone themselves.
Healthcare is not a factory, and patients are not widgets produced on an assembly line. Your health and life depend on having enough nurses to keep you safe in the hospital. Demand it from those who have the authority to do something about it.
You can listen to my speech here.
photo credit: David Miller