Nurse Guides | Resources | Clinical Procedures

How Poor Staffing of Nurses Can Impact Quality of Patient Care

January 17, 2023

Today, recruiting and retaining new nurse practitioners can challenge healthcare administrators and executives. Although nursing degrees are appealing today, there is still a wide range of nursing jobs that need filling. The situation doesn't appear to be changing anytime soon. 

In 2022, over a million nurses will retire, which could worsen the nursing shortage by 2030. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) estimates that by the end of 2022, there will be many more unfilled RN roles than in any other profession. 

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics employment projections between 2016 and 2026, the number of available RN jobs is forecast to increase to 3.4 million by 2026. In other words, available RN jobs will likely increase by 15%.

To compensate for the high nurse retirement rate and a steady demand for newly created positions, the Bureau projects the need for about 203,700 new nurses every year.

It is challenging to solve the current nurse shortage crisis while planning for increased demand for nurse talent.

Nurses' inadequate staffing can negatively influence patient outcomes and compromise the quality of care. As a result, this article illustrates how inadequate nurse staffing can negatively impact patient outcomes and suggestions on how to improve it. 

Reasons For Poor Staffing For Nurses 

Baby Boomers Retiring

Today, the elderly population makes up the largest generation in the country. Many are nurses, most expected to retire over the next five years. As more experienced nurses retire, it isn't easy to replace them early enough.  

Need for Training/ Education 

Nursing students need to receive efficient and effective training/ education. But with a decrease in classroom space and limited training resources, it isn't easy to achieve that. As a result, many applicants have failed to get accepted to nursing school. 

When few people receive training for a profession that requires many hands, a shortage occurs. Such is the case in the nursing profession today.

High Turnover Rates

Leaders find it difficult to keep up with adequate patient-staff ratios because of the high turnover rates. According to estimates, there is a 17.1% national average for annual registered nurse (RN) turnover. 

In addition, other statistics have shown that 30% of new nurses leave during their first year on the job. This number increases to about 57% within the second year of practice.   

Increase in Life Expectancy 

Modern medicine keeps improving every day. This factor accounts for an average increase in life expectancy for individuals. Therefore there is a higher demand for nurses to care for the older and aging patient population. 

The Effects of Poor Nurse Staffing on Patients 

Contrary to popular belief, having poor staffing costs hospitals a lot financially. However, patients bear the highest brunt of this inadequacy. Here are some of the adverse effects of inadequate nurse staffing on patient outcomes. 

Insufficient Attention

Nurses spend more time with patients than any other healthcare worker. Poor patient-nurse staffing will force nurses to spend less time with each patient than usual. As a result, it often leads to a decline in the quality of care rendered to the patient.

Overcrowding in Emergency Rooms 

Lack of adequate nurse staffing is one of the leading causes of overcrowding in emergency rooms. Overcrowding in hospitals increases the time patients spend there. Also, overcrowded wards increase the likelihood of physicians committing medical errors. 

Compromises Quality of Patient Care and Increases Mortality Rates

Several studies have shown connections between short-staffed facilities and higher death rates. An NCBI study showed that a richer nurse staffing ratio was one of the most vital indicators of lower patient mortality. When nurses are overworked, patients suffer. 

Naturally, nurses operate under pressure, and adding nurse shortage to this already tense working environment amplifies the problem and makes it worse. 

According to the American Association of Nurses, a lack of nurse staffing causes an increase in mortality rate, hospital infections, and readmission rates compared to hospitals. 

Nurse Burnout 

Because of the nursing shortage, the few nurses have a huge workload. When a nurse performs the duties of three nurses, the nurse tends to develop feelings of stress and dissatisfaction with the job, which eventually leads to burnout.

One of the worst experiences any patient can have is being attended to by stressed/dissatisfied nurses. Furthermore, burnt-out nurses are more likely to make medical mistakes and errors. 

Solutions to Poor Nurse Staffing 

While it may be difficult to eradicate the nursing shortage within the healthcare system, there are still ways to help alleviate the situation and combat the nursing shortage within the country. 

First off, we need to adopt a more strategic approach towards adding more registered nurses beyond Increasing their pay or tweaking benefits (good as that is). 

An important step to focus on is optimizing the pay of nurse educators and making it more attractive. Competitive salaries and incentives will attract more talent to nurse education. When we have more nurse educators, it will be possible to train more nurses and inject them into the nursing practice. 

Similarly, strategies can make nursing more financially attractive to prospective nursing students. For instance, facilitating more direct and faster payments of nursing student loans will attract more prospective nurses to the nursing field.

Technology also plays a huge role in combating the nursing shortage. The nurse turnover rate can decrease when technology makes life easier. Using software solutions to streamline their workflow and simplify processes like scheduling and credentialing will reduce the likelihood of nurses working overtime. 

Final Thoughts

Inadequate staffing of nurses can significantly impact the quality of patient care. The reason is that nurses are the ones who are responsible for most of the hands-on care of patients. 

When there are not enough nurses on staff, patients may not receive the care they need, leading to adverse outcomes. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure that enough nurses are on call around the clock to provide quality patient care.

Latest articles.

Article headline