Understaffing In Healthcare

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Understaffing in hospitals is a major problem that has been affecting healthcare workers and patients for many years. I have chosen to highlight understaffing as a patient safety issue because of the consequences that can arise from it. Shortages in staffing can result in an increase of infection rates (Stone et al., 2007) leading to complications and poorer patient outcomes (Needleman et al. 2002). This particular issue is of interest to me because I have experienced and witnessed it myself. As a midwifery student in a busy maternity hospital, I can appreciate the hard work and dedication each midwife gives to their patients. This becomes difficult to manage when the midwife has several women and babies to care for, as well as having time…show more content…
Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus is a major cross-infection problem in hospitals today that is a serious patient safety risk. (Vicca, 1999). Farrington et al (2000) investigated the effects of nursing workload in relation to MRSA control strategies. Increased workload in times of understaffing and overcrowding will reduce the time available for performing routine infection control procedures, raising the risk that there will be microorganisms transferred among patients. Therefore, the risk of MRSA spreading is increasingly likely. (Farrington et al, 2000) Studies have shown that staff are least likely to recognise hand hygiene opportunities when they are struggling with large work-loads and understaffing, therefore the risk of spreading infection becomes greater. (Sahay et al, 2010)
One approach that can possibly address the problem of understaffing is good leadership. According to Anderson (2009), research has shown that positive outcomes for patients and patient safety are directly linked to nursing skill mix and more importantly- nursing leadership. ‘Nurse leaders should be able to provide resources such as appropriate staffing levels, skill mix and resource allocation and to make operational decisions’. (Anderson,
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According to the Royal College of Nurses (2010), there are variations of staff planning tools used in the UK to target the challenges of understaffing. In the Paediatric wards, the PANDA method discriminates between children needing normal dependency, high dependency or intensive care. It calculates nursing staff requirements based on the dependency of the children. There are few disadvantages found with the PANDA planning tool as it enables staff restructuring in response to immediate needs. In a general setting, the Nursing Workforce Planning Tool (Hurst) can be used. It allows triangulation and ‘what if’ scenarios to be undertaken. It has specific excel worksheets already set up for use and has no documented disadvantages. (RCN, 2010) These tools could possibly be beneficial in relieving the stress of understaffing and furthermore improve patient safety.
A campaign set up by The Irish Nurses And Midwives association will hopefully bring about some much needed changes in Irish hospitals. The ‘Patients First’ campaign seeks to bring forward legislation requiring all health employers to display on a daily basis the exact staff to patient ratios compared to the required safe staff to patient ratio, aiming to highlight short-staffing. The INMO also demand legislation which will ensure safe staffing levels based on nationally agreed standard dependency tools. (INMO,

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