Nurses are in the business of saving lives. Although it’s not nearly as dramatic most of the time as TV’s fictional medical dramas would have us all believe. However, it is the reality that many patients are dependent upon fast thinking, fast acting, skilled nurses to ensure their health and welfare. Given this fact, short staffing is a very big challenge of nursing, and can become a liability for medical facilities.
Adequate staffing in medical facilities isn’t just about shift coverage on paper. The reality of short staffing can be dire. Nurse-to-patient ratios is a topic of heated discussion from hospitals to state legislatures. While the financial bottom line is of vast importance to today’s corporate-run hospitals, it just cannot be at the risk of patients. Short staffing creates a risk to the patients, and all the way up the chain of care. The fallout of short staffing even finds it way into the financial offices as the ill-fated results add up.
What can be done to prevent short staffing in hospitals and medical facilities? What role can nurses play in this challenge? And how do we stem the flow of nurses abandoning their careers due to burnout, attrition, and high turnover rates? First we need to identify the very real ways in which short staffing can affect the healthcare community as a whole. Then we need to examine some realistic, plausible, and solid solutions to the short staffing challenge.
The Impact of Short Staffing on The Healthcare Community
When nurses are required to work with a high number of patients many different scenarios may take place. In the short-run the overburdened nurse may become weary. This can lead to misinterpretation of instructions, mistakes with medicine, and patients being short-changed on care. Too few nurses and too many patients can tax your staff beyond the norm, and you’ll notice an increase in falls, a higher rate of infection, and mistakes on the part of the nurse. Injuries and even death are legitimate fallout due to short staffing.
Obviously your first concern is with patient care, but additionally you’ll create a situation where it becomes difficult to retain your staff. With a revolving door for your nursing staff some important aspects of training and orientation may be overlooked, creating further danger for patients. With inadequate numbers of nurses, lack of appropriate training, and frequent mistakes resulting in liabilities to the medical facility, serious allegations and the potential for legal action can take place. This threatens your entire healthcare community. The implications of short staffing are exponential.
Solve the Short Staffing Challenge
Hospitals and medical facilities examine all the ways in which they can solve the need for more nurses. Obviously there’s no easy fix for a shortage in staff. The physical health of the community depends on the financial health of the facilities serving it. That means when there is an increase in a patient census there nurses must be available to meet the need, for the benefit of the patients. When the census goes down maintaining the salaries of those nurses full time isn’t financially a sound move.
Ultimately, being able to hire temporary nurses to fill the gap for a short period is the answer. The best way to find qualified nursing staff who are willing to work for a specific period is by engaging the services of a staffing agency. More and more healthcare facilities are utilizing staffing agencies as a welcome solution to the short staffing challenge.
Some staff shortfalls are easier to predict. If you have a certain number of staff who will be taking family or medical leave, or during popular vacation times, you often know in advance and can engage a short term nurse through a staffing agency. Your facility can keep temporary staff under contract for the anticipated length of time to ensure proper patient care.
Internal staffing is another possibility, but securing enough PRN, or floating nurses, isn’t always possible. You may have times where everything hits at once. Your nurses are out on planned absences and your community is hit with the flu, or some other viral threat. You need qualified staff and you need them ASAP.
Medical Staffing is The Solution
A staffing agency has already done the work of vetting your short term employees. Licensure and certification are assuredly up to date, and credentials are as you require. There’s no need for your recruiting office to go into panic mode. All your solutions to your staffing shortage are right there waiting for you. A highly qualified and reputable medical staffing agency can protect your healthcare facility and the bottom line, while providing the utmost in patient care.
There is no “quick fix” to the challenges of short staffing. Between the shortage of available nurses and the ever-increasing patient population in the U.S. keeping a safe nurse-to-patient ratio will continue to be a serious challenge. But with the availability of nurses via staffing agencies medical facilities will be able to avoid the many liabilities associated with not having sufficient nursing staff to handle the patient load.