Understaffing in nursing homes is a major problem across the United States. Understaffing is linked to medical mistakes that occur (like medication errors), resident abuse, and neglect.
Effects of Understaffing
Understaffing can cause serious harm. The staff may have little time to spend with each patient, causing them to miss signs of infection, developing bedsores, or other problems. There may be insufficient staff available to help residents walk safely, leading to falls. Stressed, overworked staff may also make errors or vent their frustrations on their patients in abusive ways.
Understaffing is especially dangerous to patients who cannot eat, drink, and/or move on their own. Without an adequate number of staff, these patients may not get fed, re-positioned, cleaned up, assisted with personal care, or re-assessed frequently enough. Without the quality of care they require, these patients may suffer dehydration, malnutrition, bedsores, infections, or other problems.
Contributors to Understaffing
Many factors contribute to understaffing. Jobs in nursing homes are extremely stressful, with high rates of burnout and turnover. These jobs tend to pay minimally, and some nursing homes may attempt to further cut costs by operating with as few workers as possible. Consequently, many nursing home staff face impossible workloads. This perpetuates the cycle of burnout, turnover, and understaffing in many nursing homes.
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Fisher, Maura. “Care for Life? The Failing System of Nursing Home Care in the United States.” Artifacts 11(1):1-6. University of Missouri. Available at https://hdl.handle.net/10355/45054
Shaw, Penelope Ann. 2014. “Nursing assistants and quality nursing home care.” Journal of the American Medical Directors Association. Elsevier. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jamda.2014.06.010