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Overworked and overtired nurses lead to poor patient care

Nurses are on the front line of patient care, and they're the last line of defense against medical errors -- which means they face an enormous amount of responsibility every day. Unfortunately, they may be facing that workload with far too few hands to help, and patients are suffering as a result.

How serious of a problem is it when the nurses you have are understaffed and overworked? According to several different studies, patient care suffers in numerous ways:

-- For every extra patient assigned to a nurse, the rate of catheter infection increased by 1 infection per 1,000 patients.

-- Studies on New Jersey and Pennsylvania nurses found that better staffing for nurses could have prevented 11-14 percent of patient deaths in those two states alone.

-- Hospitals with nurse shortages experience higher rates of poor patient outcomes in general, including things like pneumonia, shock, cardiac arrest and urinary tract infections.

-- Patients in hospitals with poor work environments, like nursing shortages, were 16 percent more likely to die from cardiac events.

-- A patient's odds of surviving cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) drop 5 percent for every additional patient assigned to a nurse on the medical-surgical ward.

-- When hospitals are better staffed with nurses that aren't overworked and overtired, patients are less likely to be readmitted within 30 days because the nurses were more effective during discharge planning.

-- Better nurse-to-patient ratios are associated with fewer central line IV infections, fewer cases of pneumonia associated ventilators, fewer bedsores, and fewer patient deaths within 30 days of hospitalization.

All of those studies indicate essentially the same thing: quality patient care relies on the ability of nurses to do their jobs, and they can't do their jobs properly if they have too many patients. Increasing staffing by pushing overtime on nurses is also not a good solution -- that just leads to nurses who are too tired to think clearly and missed steps that adversely affect patient care.

If you think that overworked nurses or staffing problems led to a problem in your medical care and ultimately left you injured, consider contacting an attorney about a possible medical malpractice case. If you'd like to know more about how we approach nursing negligence cases, please visit our page.

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