By Joe Messa
Medical malpractice attorneys, as well as many nurses, have long declared that understaffing can lead to increased incidents of patient harm. Now, a University of Pennsylvania study published by American Journal of Infection Control is backing that assertion. The study also points to poor work environments including lack of teamwork and support from the top as well the inability to act independently as contributing factors to nurses being overly stressed and becoming burned out.
Penn researchers found that nurses who are overwhelmed may forget small but important tasks such as washing their hands which can lead to the spread of infections. According to the study, about 30 percent of the nursing staff in a typical hospital suffers from burnout. Reducing that number to 10 percent would prevent about 4,160 cases a year of the two most-common hospital-acquired infections statewide. In addition, hospitals would see a decline in hospital errors due to mistakes made by nurses who are overly fatigued.
Patient safety is the most important issue for hospitals. Some experts say that California and their required minimum nurse-to-patient ratio could be the way to go in increasing the quality of care a patient gets in the hospital. Penn’s study estimated that applying their ratios here would likely prevent approximately 222 surgical deaths annually in New Jersey and 264 in Pennsylvania.
Medical Malpractice Attorneys Note that Patient Safety is Critical in Reducing Hospital Errors
Researchers involved in the study analyzed data from a 2006 report given to the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council. The report complied results from 161 acute-care hospitals concerning patient infections. That data was linked with two surveys given to 7,076 registered nurses in direct patient care at those hospitals.
On average, the findings showed that nurses caring for an increased amount of patients were more likely to experience symptoms of burnout resulting in a lack of patient safety and additional hospital errors. Therefore, it may be beneficial to regulate the number of patients that a nurse has to care for at a given time. In Pennsylvania, legislation has been introduced to mandate minimum staffing ratios but no bill has been passed at this time.
The Philadelphia medical malpractice attorneys at Messa & Associates are experienced at handling cases involving resulting from hospital errors, including infections and medication mistakes. Our extremely skilled team of medical malpractice attorneys and medical experts are dedicated to ensuring you receive proper compensation for your personal injuries. If you or a loved one has suffered personal injuries as a result of a hospital mistake or any other negligent care received by a medical provider, contact the medical malpractice attorneys of Messa & Associates for a free consultation. Call toll free at 1-877-MessaLaw, or submit a free online inquiry.
Joseph L. Messa, Jr. is the founding partner of Messa & Associates, P.C. He is an AV-rated attorney (highest rating available), listed in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers. Read More