Survey: Pa. nurses are chronically short-staffed

nurses strike at Temple University Hospital
Rikard Larma/Metro. Nurses at Temple University Hospital protested the same issues two years ago.

Subtle changes in the condition of hospitalized patients can often mean the difference between life and death, when health care practitioners take notice. But in order to do so, they need to have the time and resources to vigilantly monitor the sick from their bedsides.

Those resources are increasingly harder to come by in Pennsylvania, according to survey results released today by the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals.

Eighty percent of registered Pa. nurses who responded say they have much less time to spend with their patients than in prior years and cited chronic short staffing as the main cause. The same percentage of nurses felt safe minimum nurse-to-patient ratios should be followed in acute care hospitals.

In fact, “respect” and “nurse-to-patient ratios” were the most commonly cited work environment changes that respondents said would substantially improve their job satisfaction.

“These results clearly show that inadequate staffing and patient safety continue to dominate the concerns of Pennsylvania nurses, while the bottom line dominates many hospital executives’ actions,” PASNAP president Patricia Eakin, RN said in a statement.

“Too many Pennsylvania hospital executives appear to be creating a patient safety crisis by putting the bottom line first, and skimping on skilled nurses and other health professionals.”

 

Profits over patients

 

The survey also showed health care professionals are feeling the financial crunch – 72 percent of respondents ranked bottom line profits as their hospital’s number one priority.

When one nurse asked for better staffing for her critical care unit, her manager told her “you are going to have to do more with less,” according to a PASNAP release.

The organization noted Jefferson Health System made a $452 million profit over the last two years and accumulated over $1.6 billion in cash and investments and the University of Pennsylvania Health System is on target to make $100 million in profits this fiscal year and has more than $2 billion in cash and investments.

“With these kinds of healthy income and cash numbers, it is jarring that nurses would be asked to ‘do more with less,’” the release noted.

 

Impending crisis

 

The survey indicated staffing shortages are not likely to end anytime soon – about a quarter of Pa. nurses who responded expect to retire within the next five years and 48 percent plan to leave within 10 years.

“These survey results also show that the hospital industry is about to enter another period of severe labor market shortages for Registered Nurses and other health professionals,”  PASNAP director Bill Cruice said.

“Pennsylvania and the nation are facing an impending labor market crisis that will not be solvable through recruitment of new nurses. Hospitals must implement policies that address nurses’ job satisfaction and for nurses, the number one improvement is for hospitals to provide sufficient staff so they can safely care for their patients.”



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