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Home > Article Categories > Nursing Jobs > Hospitals May Find Incentive to Increase Nursing Staff

Hospitals May Find Incentive to Increase Nursing Staff

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Despite the costs of keeping a low patient to nurse ratio, hospitals may now find a greater incentive to do so. Especially recently, hospitals have had to become more frugal to maintain their bottom lines. Because of this, many hospitals have chosen to cut members of their nursing staff. Salaries for nurses accounts for a significant portion of a hospital budget.

However recent analysis of hospital costs due to the nurse shortage combined with the successful lawsuits for shortage-related negligence means hospitals may be much more likely to increase the size of their nursing team. Health Affairs medical journal recently reported a study in 2006 which determined that hiring more nurses can save a hospital a considerable amount of money, long term. According to the study, an annual 6,700 patient deaths and 4 million days of extra hospital care could be avoided by employing more registered nurses (RNs).

According to Peter Buerhaus, co-author of the Health Affairs study and assistant dean of Vanderbilt School of Nursing, nursing care in U.S. hospitals has reached a critical shortage (the worst in 50 years) and will be especially hard on the country since just as there are fewer nurses, the population is aging and in need of more medical care.

"Today, we have a cruel and unfortunate development,? Buerhaus said. "Our current work force will get older and older and retire in large numbers in the next decade just as we see the aging of baby boomers, all 80 million of them, beginning to turn 65 and consuming more health care." The first successful lawsuit for negligence due to the nursing shortage was filed against Wesley Hospital (Wichita, Kansas) by the daughter of Shirley Keck. Keck, 61, was admitted to the Wesley Hospital Emergency Room with trouble breathing. ER doctors suspected Keck had pneumonia, and admitted her.

After admittance, Keck continued to worsen with increasingly belabored breathing, but her nurse didn't have time to check up on her until she deteriorated to the point she required resuscitation. The woman's nurse was stretched too thin, caring for 20 patients (exceeding even Wesley Hospital guidelines for patient-to-nurse ratio). It was then revealed that Keck did not have pneumonia, as originally assumed, but was having a heart attack which filled her lungs with fluid. Because she didn't get immediate attention, she was paralyzed and suffered other brain damage. Her family won $2.7 million from the hospital.

The problem is, even once hospitals realize the benefits of hiring a larger nursing staff, the nursing shortage will still be an issue until nursing schools are able to accept more students. Many thousands of applicants to nursing programs had to be rejected by schools because of limited funds, faculties, and laboratories.

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