With Shortage in Nurses, Hospital Workplace Safety Is More Important Than Ever
by Shulman & Hill
RNs are quitting in large numbers. The country already faced a nursing shortage prior to 2020, but the pandemic has quickly turned it into a crisis. In most hospitals, the nurses who are left are attending to more patients than ever before.
After more than a year of battling a once-in-a-century pandemic, many nurses are burned out. In addition to working longer hours to account for the spike in critically ill patients, the mental and emotional toll has also been difficult to bear.
While working their shifts, many nurses worried about whether or not they may get sick themselves or pass the virus to a loved one at home. Some secluded themselves into separate rooms or entirely different homes in order to protect those around them. The backdrop to all of this was constant grief and loss. Nurses stepped in to help comfort dying patients in their last moments since family members could not be there, and nurses were there to witness patients’ last moments when ICU staff could not save them.
A year and a half later, RNs are quitting in large numbers. The country already faced a nursing shortage prior to 2020, but the pandemic has quickly turned it into a crisis. In most hospitals, the nurses who are left are attending to more patients than ever before. Not only does this put them at risk of burnout, but it also puts their physical health in danger.
An Aging U.S. Population Created a Nursing Shortage Before COVID
There are a number of reasons for the shortage of nurses. Well before the pandemic hit, experts were warning of a staffing shortage due to America’s aging population. As more and more Baby Boomers have retired over the last decade, the 65+ age group has ballooned. Between 2011 and 2019, this demographic increased by 73%.
An aging population puts a greater strain on hospitals as older patients are more likely to suffer from age-related health conditions and typically require longer stays than younger patients do. In addition to an increase in older patients, Baby Boomer nurses are also retiring, creating an even larger gap between the number of RNs and the number of patients.
More Than a Year of COVID-Related Stress Leads to Unprecedented Burnout
Staffing shortages quickly became a crisis when COVID-19 emerged. Nurses have been asked to work longer hours and deal with higher-stress situations. Many moved departments to help accommodate overflowing ICU units.
In addition to the extra stress, nurses also had to risk their health and the health of their loved ones when PPE shortages required them to reuse masks or work without adequate safety protection. After more than a year of working in a pressure cooker environment, nurses reported unprecedented levels of burnout. A survey conducted in April 2021 by the American Nurses Foundation found that an astounding 92% of RNs were considering leaving the profession.
Post-COVID resignations are already being felt. States like Tennessee and Mississippi currently have fewer nurses than they had in January of 2021: In some cases, the number of RNs has dropped by thousands. New York City hospitals have reported that it takes them an average of three months or longer to hire one RN.
In early September, the American Nurses Association raised the alarm when they sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services asking that they declare the nursing shortage a national emergency.
Understaffing May Put Workers at Greater Risk for Injuries
When nurses are required to take care of too many patients, it does not just affect their mental and emotional wellbeing—it also puts their physical health at risk.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about half of nursing-related injuries are strains, sprains, and tears. Many of these are caused by overexertion.
Nurses are most likely to be injured when moving or transferring patients. Without the proper support, nurses can injure their muscles, nerves, tendons, spinal discs, and/or joints. In order to move patients safely, it is recommended that staff seek help from coworkers, use assistive devices when possible, and practice ergonomically safe lifting techniques which include bending with the knees and not the back.
However, when nurses are rushing between critically ill patients, safety best practices are often foregone in the interest of providing patients with the life-saving treatment they need. One wrong move may cause severe injuries that result in lifelong challenges for a hospital worker.
Financial Resources Available to Injured Healthcare Workers
While nurses have always made sacrifices to save patients’ lives, the events of the last year have made their selflessness more apparent than ever. That is why it is important that injured RNs have access to the resources they need to properly heal and recover if they are ever injured at work.
Injured nurses may qualify for compensation if they are ever hurt while working. In most cases, this involves filing a workers’ compensation claim.
Workers’ compensation benefits include weekly payments that compensate for the following losses:
- Costs of medical care: May include hospital stays, surgery, medication, and physical rehabilitation
- Diminished earnings: If an injury requires that a worker stay home or find other employment that is not as physically straining, they may be compensated for the loss in income
Injured? Contact the Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Shulman & Hill
Shulman & Hill has offices throughout New York City and the surrounding area dedicated to helping injured New Yorkers secure the compensation they need to recover from their injuries and illnesses. If you were injured in a hospital or other workplace setting, you can schedule a free legal consultation to find out what your options for compensation may be.
Our workers’ compensation lawyers have helped numerous workers file successful workers’ compensation claims and challenge denials. If you are considering filing a claim or need assistance fighting back against a denied claim, contact Shulman & Hill for help. We can help investigate the cause of your injury, gather supporting evidence that shows why you may be eligible for compensation, and negotiate with insurers to help you secure the benefits you may be entitled to.
Schedule your free, no-obligation legal consultation today to learn more.