Nursing Shortage Is Deadly

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A new study says the number of patients under a nurse's care can be a matter of life or death for patients. Researchers say patients had a greater chance of dying following surgery in hospitals where the nurses took care of more people.

According to study conducted by the Journal of American Medicine Association, each additional patient a nurse takes on raises the risk of the patient's chances of death by seven percent.

"Nurses are truly the backbone and the eyes for the physician,” says Keith Harmon Nurse Manager at Rockford Memorial Hospital.

There's no denying the crucial role nurses play at our hospitals. But when they're stretched too thin patients and nurses can suffer. Extended Web Coverage


  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that through 2006, RN employment will grow by 23 percent, faster than average for all other occupations.

  • There have been fewer new graduates hired in the last four to five years. Without the new graduates, there are fewer nurses available to replace those that retire or that leave for other opportunities.

  • According to a study published in the journal Health Affairs, about a third of U.S. nurses under 30 reportedly plan to leave their jobs within the next year.

  • About half of the RN workforce will reach retirement age in the next 15 years.

  • The average age of new RN graduates is 31; they are entering the profession at an older age and will have fewer years to work than nurses traditionally have had.

  • There have been modifications in the care that is given, and a new push for competitive quality is increasing patient days, hours of nursing care, and recognition of the role of RN.

    Why Nurses Are Leaving

  • A University of Pennsylvania study said many hospital nurses are frustrated over staff shortages, patients loads and quality of care.

  • More than half of those surveyed say they had even been subjected to verbal abuse on the job.

  • More than two out of five scored high on a "burnout inventory'' used to measure emotional exhaustion and the extent to which they felt overwhelmed by their work.

  • The nurses blame rising patient loads and a shortage of nurses.

  • They also say there is a decline in the quality of patient care.

  • A researcher at the University of Pennsylvania said hospitals need to offer personnel policies and benefits comparable to those offered by other businesses.

    Sources: (NurseWeek web site), (Nurses for a Healthier Tomorrow); Associated Press

    “If we don't have enough nurses to provide adequate care we've closed down beds in the ICU," comments Harmon.

    The adult Intensive Care Unit at Rockford Memorial staffs one nurse for every two patients or one on one in serious situations.

    "The more nurses the better the outcomes,” adds Harmon.

    Many say the study holds some merit, but there have been conflicting reports.

    "The study does offer quantitative information which is worthwhile but we need consistencies in these studies because they're have been reports that say it isn't that much different,” comments Sue Driscoll VP of Health and Patient Services.

    The study was conducted in Pennsylvania and Driscoll says the issues are much different here in Rockford where there is a good supply of qualified nurses.