H ealthcare provider shortages are not just a domestic problem for the U.S. Healthcare organizations abroad are also feeling the pinch of healthcare demands exceeding staffing resources. Nurses in Sydney Australia are dealing with several of the overtime issues that many nurses in the U.S. are dealing with today and have been dealing with for some time. Double shifts working up to and in some case over 16 hours a day at the bedside, going home and then repeating the schedule over again the next day are becoming the norm rather than the exception.
The demands placed on our current nursing work force are significant. With the 85 year old segment of the population growing in size faster than any other segment coupled with the aging healthcare work force the demands for care are exceeding many organization’s ability to provide it.
The use of mandatory overtime for nurses is becoming more prevalent. Staffing schedules are being pieced together with whatever personnel resources are available. Using less qualified nurses in critical areas to shore up schedules is common place. Often staffing shortfalls are just left vacant and the increased workload is just spread amongst those nurses left on duty. Patient safety is often compromised, care is usually delayed, and the risk of error is great. Healthcare organizations are writing checks when there is no money in the bank when it comes to staffing.
The resulting quality of care in some hospitals clearly becomes substandard. Hospitals that are engaged in financial difficulties that have laid off staff members have compounded the problem. Hospitals have beds but not enough staff to accept additional patients. Patients are held in emergency departments overnight and well into the next day, sometimes longer. Patients that do have beds are not receiving care in a timely fashion. Patients with mobility problems that require staff assistance are left to sit in their own excrement for hours sometimes because of nursing and ancillary staffing shortages or cut backs.
Between overtime issues, care demands, and provider shortages patient centered care is taking a huge hit these days. The inherent tribulations in healthcare cannot continue to go on ignored. While many leaders have turned their attention to a single payer system for services there is much work that needs to be done with regard to the delivery of care.