Care Left “Undone” During Nursing Shifts
This study, performed in the UK, shows the correlation between tasks left undone during a nurse’s shift and staffing on a hospital unit. Tasks that are most often left undone include talking with and educating patients. This affects patients far after they leave the hospital, especially if they do not receive vital instructions for maintaining their health, such as how to care for wounds, when to take (or not to take) medication, and when to call a doctor. This is yet another study that shows nurse staffing affects patients not just while they are in the hospital, but also when they have left.
On my unit we try to keep the mentality that it’s a 24 hour job and the next shift can get to things if we cannot get to them ourselves. But this primarily addresses tasks that a nurse is not able to get to, not patient education and counseling. It would be so nice to have adequate time to talk to my patients and educate them thoroughly. Currently this feels like the exception rather than the rule. I know busy nurses everywhere are suffering from the same chronic disappointment in our jobs. We got into nursing for the patients, it is upsetting when you are forced, due to staffing, to give only the care written down on paper and not the vital care that nurses are trained to give every patient: emotional support and comfort. The ability to spend time with your patients and care for their emotions is part of what makes nursing a rewarding occupation, and the inability to do so is what causes many nurses to develop compassion fatigue, burnout, and to leave the profession.