The country has a shortage of nurses. The past two years’ events have exacerbated this, but the problem existed before. The result is a threat to the safety of patients and nurses.
An American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) report looked at the reasons for the shortage of registered nurses. Here is what it found:
- A shortage of spaces on nurse training courses due to a shortage of training facilities
- An aging nursing workforce with many either retired or close to retiring
- An aging population means more nurses are needed
- A high number of nurses leaving due to stress
Perhaps the last point is the most relevant if you work as a nurse. If the job is stressful now, it will only worsen if staffing shortages increase.
How does this risk your safety?
Stress can, in itself, harm your health. While a small amount may be acceptable, too much over too long a period can damage your mental health. That, in turn, could manifest as physical health problems.
Working at or beyond your limit for too long can leave you tired with frayed nerves. The same will be true for your colleagues. Therefore it is more likely that you or someone else makes a mistake that you would not do if you were well-rested and feeling good. Any of those mistakes could harm a patient, and they could harm you. For instance, if someone forgets to put a safety catch on a bed that they raise, it could fall on your hand. If they fail to properly dispose of a used needle, it could catch your hand and infect you.
Nursing requires teamwork. Moving patients or heavy equipment safely requires a certain number of people. If there is no one else to help you, because everyone is already busy due to inadequate staffing, you may have to do things without enough help. That increases the risk of back injury.
There is nothing you can do about the staffing shortage. All you can do is take care and if you are injured at work, find out how to claim workers’ compensation.