I have heard from many nurses that where they are working is understaffed which is not safe for the patients. Those nurses put in a lot of overtime because they are concerned that if they didn’t, there would be fewer staff available to care for the patients. They also expressed concerns that if the facility is able to get staff from an agency, those people would not know the patients. This is a difficult situation.
Many nurses want mandatory staffing requirements. However, I am not necessarily sure that this is the answer. I think staffing needs to be based on acuity. There are times when you can get by with a certain number of staff when the acuity is low while, at other times, where there may be a bunch of fresh post-ops or critical patients in ICU where the normal staffing number will not work. If we had mandatory staffing requirements, there would still be times when it would not be adequate.
We all want to provide safe patient care to have enough staff to deliver the care that the patients deserve. If you are working in a facility that is constantly understaffed and are working a lot of the overtime, you have to admit that, yes, the money’s great but, are you really being giving to yourself?
If a nurse is working so much and not listening to his/her body when he/she needs a break, that is where I see the possibility of trouble. If he/she makes a mistake, it may hurt someone even though the whole reason that he/she is working so much is so there will be enough care and patients will get adequate care. That is contrary though to the result that they wanted to produce.
Also, if you’re working in a place that is constantly understaffed and you have communicated your concerns in a positive manner to your supervisor (not just a complaining manner) then be sure to put your concerns to your supervisor in writing a keep a copy for yourself.
I also suggest that you ask yourself, “Why am I working in a place that is short-staffed?” A lot of times we work and stay somewhere where we know we have concerns about patient safety because it’s our comfort zone and we don’t want to leave our patients. Yet, by allowing the understaffing to continue and you staying in that facility trying to compensate for the understaffing will contribute to the problem as well.
I know my position is unpopular but I say that if you are working in a place that is frequently understaffed…leave! You can always get another job but you can’t get another license.
It is my hope that nurses will come together and communicate their needs in a positive way and that nurses should stick together to accomplish change so that patients can get the best care with adequate staffing.