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Study probes effect of nurse burnout on medical errors

On Behalf of | Aug 24, 2012 | Nursing Home Negligence

In one of our recent blog posts (please see our August 14 entry), we referenced the staffing levels and policies in New Jersey nursing homes, noting the obvious nexus that exists between an inadequate level of trained staff members on hand and a heightened degree of nursing home neglect.

A new study authored by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and appearing in this month’s issue of the Journal of Infection Control takes an in-depth look at the consequences of understaffing in hospitals — and, by implication, in nursing homes — on patient care. The study takes an especially probing look at the critically important role played by registered nurses at medical facilities, and its findings would strongly seem to be similar and of equal validity in all states, including New Jersey.

The bottom line: Understaffing leads to nurse burnout, which in turn results in providers’ “detachment from the environment, both emotionally and cognitively.”

That, the researchers say, spells trouble. Most centrally, it can lead to medical errors across a broad spectrum, including negligent supervision, medication mistakes and other adverse outcomes for patients.

What researchers note in pronounced fashion is the close connection between overly fatigued — in some cases, emotionally exhausted — nurses and higher rates of facility-acquired infections, including urinary tract infections. Study authors note that adding a single patient to the workload of an already overworked nurse bumps up infection incident rates significantly.

Short of adding staff, which many facilities are constricted in doing, what can hospitals and nursing homes do to guard against nurse detachment and its negative consequences?

Researchers have a simple prescription: Better empower nurses. Grant them more autonomy and include them more meaningfully in important decisions. An inclusionary environment is the best antidote to detachment and burnout. Encouraging it will reduce medical mistakes and improve outcomes in any facility that cares for patients.

If your parent or other loved one has been injured as a result of nursing home abuse or neglect, please contact Breslin & Breslin for a free consultation.

Source: Healthcare Finance News, “Nurse staffing, burnout linked to HAIs,” Kelsey Brimmer, Aug. 7, 2012

  • Regardless of cause, nursing home neglect or abuse is unacceptable. We invite readers to visit our New Jersey Nursing Home Negligence page to learn more about the client-centered and experienced advocacy we provide to nursing home residents who need our assistance.

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