The “great resignation” alongside the Covid-19 pandemic has reshaped the way people think about work. Indeed, for many industries over the last year, finding sustainable and reliable employees has been a difficult challenge, forcing many organizations and businesses to cut services or even close their doors.
Healthcare has been no different, and has been extremely hard hit with staffing shortages, especially during this past year. One of the most prominent issues recently for healthcare entities has been severe shortages in nursing staff, which many healthcare professionals say has lead to dangerous patient care practices and outcomes.
In a study done earlier this year, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported “that more than 275,000 additional nurses are needed from 2020 to 2030. Employment opportunities for nurses are projected to grow at a faster rate (9%) than all other occupations from 2016 through 2026.”
The tangible net effect of this nursing shortage has very real effects on patient care. Namely, patient-to-nurse staffing ratios get completely distorted; for example, though the norm for a standard ICU nurse may be to manage two patients over the course of a shift, shortages may demand that the same nurse now take care of 3 or 4 patients— paving the way for less-than-ideal care. This scenario has been especially true in emergency departments, medical admission wards, and ICUs around the country, leading to significant delays in care, difficulty getting hospital beds, and most importantly, poorer healthcare outcomes.
For many organizations, these shortages have caused dire effects, including significant disruptions to essential services, or worse, closing their doors permanently due to lack of resources. Ultimately there is only one party that truly pays the price without access to reliable healthcare services: the community.
I’ve written in the past about how the Covid-19 pandemic has placed a significant amount of stress on healthcare workers in general. Physicians are no different; for millions of doctors globally, the pandemic truly tested their limits of resilience and dedication to the field, especially amidst PPE shortages, high risk encounters on the front-lines, and challenging working conditions. This is already in the context of an ever-looming physician shortage that experts predict will cause significant effects in healthcare access over the next decade. In fact, primary care is expected to be among the hardest hit sectors in this physician shortage, painting a dire picture for the years to come.
Undoubtedly, patients ultimately stand to lose the most as a result of this entire situation, whether it be due to unsafe staffing practices, overworked healthcare professionals, or lack of access to care simply because organizations are not able to keep their doors open. Therefore, this issue must become a top priority for policymakers, healthcare leaders, and patient safety advocates globally, and must be addressed as soon as possible.
Life Sciences, Forbes – Healthcare