Not surprisingly, this study reveals that hospitals with understaffed ICU units have higher incidences of infection and patient mortality. What a perfect metaphor for businesses of all kinds–when you overwork your employees to the point of stress, the results for your customers suffer. The Deming quality studies from decades ago confirmed this understanding, yet we continue to disregard it in our organizational imperatives.
Why is there such a severe nursing shortage? No doubt lots of factors count, but clearly these are biggies: nurses are consistently overworked and, compared to medical doctors, underpaid, and women now have other options where they can count on receiving a) similar or better money, b) far less stressful working conditions, c) get more respect from employers and have more opportunities for pleasant interactions with coworkers (being around disease and illness is taxing), and d) not have to work excessive overtime.
So it seems reasonable to conclude that we don’t necessarily have fewer people who care about nursing. Seems more like the practitioners don’t get the respect they deserve. And it’s the patients–that’s you and me–who pay the price.