By the numbers: Nurses are being understaffed by hospitals

Hospital CorridorAcross the country, including in Minnesota, nurses say they are being increasingly short staffed by hospitals. In Michigan, a recent survey of nurses found that nearly a quarter of nurses were aware of a patient dying due to inadequate staffing. In Massachusetts, one in four registered nurses reported patient deaths are directly attributable to patient staffing. What’s more, 85 percent of those nurses surveyed said patient care was suffering due to short staffing by hospitals.

In Minnesota, a state once touted for its excellent medical care, the story is beginning to look the same. In 2015, nurses filed more than 2,700 Concern for Safe Staffing forms—an increase of 32 percent over the previous year—citing incidents where patient care was compromised or patient safety was at risk because hospitals did not schedule enough nurses for duty. Nurses say hospitals are looking for ways to cut corners and increase profits. Short staffing nurses is one way hospitals are cost-cutting but what’s really being cut is the quality of patient care.

Minnesota nurses reported incidents such as medication delays, inability to answer call lights, incomplete or rushed discharge instructions, or patients leaving without being seen. The number of nurses citing incidents of rushed or incomplete discharge instructions increased by more than 70 percent over 2014.

“The staffing problem cannot be blamed on a nursing shortage,” said Mathew Keller, a nurse and attorney who co-authored the study of short staffing incidents in Minnesota hospitals. “Nursing schools are graduating two RNs for every new job opening in the state. Nurses simply are not being hired to fill needed positions.”

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