When hospitals are understaffed, patients are put at an increased risk of serious injuries. Not having enough staff members to provide adequate care could mean that patients are left alone for longer than they should be or left without the care they need. Medical malpractice claims could follow as patients realize that their care wasn’t up to the standard expected in the medical industry.
According to data collected from HealthData.gov, around 19% of all hospitals in the United States are going through critical staffing shortages. Pennsylvania is 29th, with around 16.52% of its hospitals chronically understaffed.
What does understaffing mean for patients?
For patients, understaffing can mean that there is a greater risk of getting hurt. In chronically understaffed hospitals, staff members are expected to care for more patients. They work longer hours and work harder during their time on the job. As a result, fatigue kicks in. Staff members are also more likely to hurt themselves because of overexertion or other issues, so the shortage could be made worse by burnout and workplace injuries.
What can you do if you have to go to a hospital that is understaffed?
When a hospital is clearly understaffed, you may have to speak up for yourself and be your own advocate. If a nurse says they’ll bring you medication and you don’t see it within the hour, you should use the call button and ask. It’s much more likely that nonemergency issues will be forgotten about or ignored, leading to some patients not getting the medications they need, like pain relievers following surgery.
Keep track of any errors you suspect have taken place. If you cannot speak up for yourself, consider having someone come with you to the hospital to track what’s supposed to happen and when.
Not all patients will be able to prevent errors or injuries from occurring. However, if you advocate for yourself and speak up if your care is of poor quality, you should be heard. If you are injured because you aren’t treated on time or because of the staff’s mistakes, you could have a medical malpractice claim.