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Understaffed Hospitals Linked to Patient and Staff Injuries and Deaths


Florida’s health system is in a rough spot. With fewer nurses working longer shifts, a serious threat is posed to both patients and the nurses themselves. Recent studies conducted across the country show that many hospitals do not carry enough nursing staff to accommodate the number of patients they have. The results have ranged from longer wait times for patients, to a decrease in the quality of care, and in some instances, preventable patient deaths.

In 2004, California became the first state in the U.S. to implement minimum ratios of nurses to patients. As a result, a study conducted in 2010 showed that patients were less likely to die in California hospitals than they were in states that did not have minimum staffing ratios. Patients also spent less time in the hospital.

Nurses themselves reported less dissatisfaction with their jobs, were less prone to burnout, and had a higher degree of job satisfaction. Response to patient needs improved, as did patient results.

In addition, the study also showed that working long hours in an understaffed hospital had a serious impact on the nurses’ musculoskeletal health and was associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, insomnia, and mental health issues.

From a patient care standpoint, patients in hospitals that were understaffed:

  • Showed a 7% increase in patient mortality for each additional patient assigned to an individual nurse;
  • Had a greater likelihood of poor outcomes such as pressure ulcers, skin lesions, and weight loss; and
  • Had a greater risk of urinary tract and surgical site infections.

The study also showed that reducing patient to staff ratios markedly improved patient recovery time and outcomes.

Florida Considers Passing Minimum Staffing Ratios 

Despite the success of minimum staffing measures in California, other states, including Florida, have been slow to implement similar measures of their own. Florida’s legislature has been considering such a measure for over a decade now, but a series of such bills that would implement safe staffing ratios have died in subcommittees only to be revived the following year. The latest incarnation, HB 1083 was introduced in January of 2018.

Meanwhile, a similar measure is being promoted by Senator Sherrod Brown at the Federal level. This bill is known as the Nurse Staffing Standards for Hospital Patient Safety and Quality Care Act.

Hospitals Still Have a Duty to Patient Care

While legislators ponder the pros and cons of implementing a measure that would protect patients and reduce stress on nurses, hospitals still owe their patients a certain standard of care under the law. In instances in which an understaffed hospital is found to be negligent in that duty, a patient injured due to an unresponsive staff is entitled to damages.

Have You or Has Someone You Love been the Victim of Medical Negligence?

If so, the Tampa medical malpractice attorneys at Palmer | Lopez understand that you deserve to be compensated for your pain and suffering as well as the loss of work and necessary medical treatment that you will likely need as a result of dangerously mismanaged hospitals. Please feel free to give us a call at 813-506-5651, and we’ll discuss your case right away.


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