Understaffing in US Healthcare and Its Effects

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The world faces many challenges, and one of these is a healthcare shortage. The data provided by CNN revealed that by 2025, the United States would need more than 445,000 health aides. It would also require an additional 29,400 nurses.

The solutions to the problem are complex and involve many alternatives, including using clinical workflow tools for better productivity and efficiency.

It is urgent to address this issue. The outcomes of understaffing in healthcare can be severe.

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Higher Risks of Infections in Patients

Hospitals can heal a person—or make their illness worse. A compromised immune system, for example, makes a patient more vulnerable to infections. About 4% of the total hospital stays in the country would result in such a condition.

A 2019 study, though, pointed out another possible cause of such risk: understaffing. For the research, the team analyzed the information from 2007 to 2012.

They learned that patients in an understaffed facility through the day and night shifts could develop healthcare-associated infections within two days.

The study didn’t dive deep into the cause but only establish the link between patient infection risks and workforce shortage. However, experts believe the likelihood is due to poorer healthcare quality.

The increased risk of infection boosts not only the length of hospital stays and healthcare costs but also the odds of dying from complications. A study in Critical Care Medicine revealed that a higher ratio between patients and nurses could decrease the risk of patient mortality.

Burnouts and Medical Errors

A clinical workflow tool can help a healthcare facility manage their staff. For example, real-time workflow visibility can cut down walking times and unnecessary visits to the patient’s room.

All these can minimize another growing problem in the healthcare workforce: burnout. A 2018 study cited how a third of the nurses and 50% of the physicians in the United States are experiencing the symptoms of burnout.

While burnout is normal, it can also be dangerous, especially in healthcare. It raises the risks of:

  • Mental and physical distress
  • Lack of clarity or mental focus
  • Higher chances of making medical mistakes

In a 2018 research, the link between burnout and medical errors exist regardless of the doctor’s specialty. Also, those who report symptoms of burnout are twice as likely to make a medical mistake in the last three months.

Medical mistakes are some of the primary causes of preventable deaths in the United States. Based on the data, many of these mistakes may be due to burnout or stress than lack of expertise or unsafe healthcare facility.

The severity of burnout can vary, depending on the specialty and age. For instance, millennials are less likely to report it than those who belong to Generation X. But many of them, regardless of their generation, reported feeling depressed and having suicidal thoughts due to extreme stress.

Optimizing Efficiency and Safety of Healthcare Workers

In a healthcare setting, usually, the focus is on the patient’s well-being. The studies mentioned above and elsewhere suggest that it is high time to pay attention to workers’ health needs as well.

In reality, managing a healthcare facility isn’t easy. One of the common issues is the budget. It prevents a hospital, for instance, from hiring new healthcare workers but forces it to accept more patients.

Using a clinical workflow tool shows how a hospital administrator still has ways to make the most of their staff, making them more efficient, but also healthier and happier.

Ruby Hamilton
About Ruby Hamilton 6 Articles
Ruby Hamilton is a blogger and freelance writer who loves to express her thoughts towards online communities. She specializes in making informative articles for the blogs which helps to increase the visibility of the blogs.

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