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Wheaton licensure defense attorneyThe nursing profession has never lacked its challenges, but two major issues have increasingly affected the quality of work environments for nurses: short-staffing and extended working hours. What negative effects are resulting from these problems?

Short-staffing of hospitals has become a top concern for nurses. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that, by 2022, there will be a need for more than 1 million registered nurses due to occupational growth and replacement hiring. What is viewed as the most dangerous concern for short-staffing? A lack of sufficient patient care. In hospitals suffering nurse shortages, nurses often do not have time to provide the necessary care for patients or their families, as they are rushed to assist a patient and then move on to the next one. Such feelings can lead to moral distress, in which nurses become physically and emotionally drained when they repeatedly cannot provide the care they feel is necessary.

In order to address problems that arose due to short-staffed hospitals, some nurses are required to work longer shifts involving extended hours and overtime. This solution creates an inherent problem: nurse fatigue. With an increase in fatigue affecting nurses, there is a corollary risk of increased medical errors involving patients, as fatigue can lead to mistakes or oversights related to patient care. The typical number of hours a nurse should work in a week is at most 40 hours, working no more than 12 hours in a day. Nurses who work beyond that start to experience cognitive decline, resulting in a higher probability of mistakes being made that can adversely affect patients.

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