Does understaffing lead to medical malpractice?

On Behalf of | Jan 12, 2022 | Medical Malpractice |

If there is one thing that is true, it’s that someone who is tired is going to make mistakes more often than someone who is alert and well-rested. This is problematic for patients seeking medical attention, especially as many nursing homes and hospitals have limited staff who are largely overworked.

In hospitals specifically, the heavy workload assigned to nurses is one of the major reasons for mistakes. As of a 2020 report, it was found that the current supply of nurses is not enough to support the current demand, which means that the shortage of nurses is expected to grow and leave those who do enter the field without adequate support.

Nursing shortages lead to heavy workloads

It is the unfortunate truth that nursing shortages do lead to increased workloads for those who are able to stay on the job. Mandatory overtime policies and high demands may lead to exhaustion and overworked staff members who make errors.

It has been shown that heavy nursing workloads do negatively impact patient safety. Heavy workloads also:

  • Reduce job satisfaction
  • Lead to higher turnover
  • Contribute to the nursing shortage

Nursing workload issues can lead to errors that harm patients. Slips and lapses in judgment or execution errors become more common. Mistakes related to problems with education or knowledge also increase, as nurses may be pressed to help patients quickly and not feel they have time to fully research what’s needed to do so effectively.

Time pressure may also reduce a nurse’s attention during safety-critical tasks, which means that they may be more likely to make a mistake that leads to poor patient care.

Shortages are not a patient’s responsibility. They deserve appropriate care

While shortages are problematic, they are not the responsibility of a patient to correct. Patients deserve knowledgeable care and adequate care when they are hospitalized for an illness or injury. Failing to give a patient their medications, failing to respond to patients who are in pain or who need support to get to the restroom and making mistakes with time-sensitive, safety-critical tasks may all lead to serious injuries and medical malpractice claims.