A frequent comment I hear from my clients is that they are given an extremely difficult assignment or that they are very short-staffed.
One nurse was in a long-term care facility that was so short-staffed; she was assigned her own hall as well as half of another hall. These nursing situations are flat out dangerous. Patients cannot get the proper care when there is no enough staff to provide that care.
As a nurse, what do you do? Your first instinct likely would be to not accept the assignment while simply saying, “I can’t do this!”
Unfortunately, nurses as employees do not have that right to refuse an assignment. This is called “insubordination.” Nurses then are put in the proverbial “rock and a hard place” in that if they don’t accept the assignment, they could lose their job and face a possible complaint of patient abandonment.
There is a huge fear of putting your license in jeopardy or even having a claim of malpractice if you don’t have enough staff to properly care for your patients.
If you find yourself in this position, I advise that you write a letter expressing your concerns about the staffing situation, or the assignment. Be sure to sign and date it and provide a copy of your letter to your supervisor as well as your director of nursing or administrator.
This will not prevent the problem but, at least, you have put your concerns on record. If something negative happens as a result of the situation, you will have evidence that you were aware of the potential problem and had brought it to the attention of your superiors. This probably is your only option. However, if you are working in a facility that is continually short-staffed, you may want to consider leaving.
The initiatives through the legislature to obtain safe staffing are not geared for long-term care. I think that safe staffing should be applicable to every locality and to include all nurses.
What do you do if you’re short-staffed? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.