Top 8 Issues with Short Staffing

As healthcare systems accommodate the retirement of baby boomer nurses and work to do more with less to make ends meet, many organizations find themselves short staffed. And while the best nurses will do whatever it takes to care for their patients, operating without enough help is bound to lead to serious problems.

Here, we share the top eight consequences of short staffing in healthcare.

#1 – Patient mortality increases.

As overworked nurses become tired and rushed, the risk of medical errors with the potential to harm a patient increases. Keeping nurses fresh and ready to provide the best care will lead to significantly better patient outcomes.

#2 – Patient satisfaction decreases.

As patients wait longer for a response to their call lights and get less face-to-face time with staff, their perception of the care they are receiving becomes more negative than positive. Making sure your nurses are able to respond to all patients in a timely fashion is important to ensure patients are happiest with your facility’s care.

#3 – Team dynamics are strained.

Even something like a simple bathroom break can be long enough to cause petty arguments. When you need every minute of you can get from your nurses, this can be quite the disruption. In addition, coworkers who worked harmoniously can grow apart in the face of short staffing.

#4 – Nurses get burned out.

Nursing is an incredibly challenging career prone to burnout in the first place. When caregivers and clinical professionals don’t have the support and resources they need, the burnout process can be accelerated. Unfortunately, this means facilities can be put in the precarious position of consistent hiring.  

#5 – Call-outs happen more regularly.

Working short-staffed is physically, mentally, and emotionally straining on the nurses on duty. It increases their risk of getting sick or even simply too fatigued after a long work week. Nurses need time to recharge their batteries, too, but unfortunately sometimes that’s the reason for calling out. To compound the issue, if your floor is already short on staff, call-outs only worsen the issue. This causes an even lower quality of patient care as there simply aren’t enough nurses to go around! Plus, those who are working are asked to do even more, which leads to further fatigue for them.

#6 – The risk of abuse & neglect increases.

This immense physical and mental strain can break down the patience and resolve that most nurses demonstrate every day. Unfortunately, that means it’s easier for your staff to lose their temper with a patient, physician, or coworker. While many skilled living facilities choose to cut staff to save money, they neglect value the risk associated with more outbursts and lesser care. 

#7 – Turnover goes through the roof.

When an organization is short staffed for a week or even a month or two, nurses generally hang in there and push through. The high-quality nurses are usually team players. They’re willing to “buckle down” in times of need. But what happens when short staffing drags on for months and months?  Unfortunately, many nurses begin to look elsewhere for jobs that are less demanding and ultimately, less stressful.

#8 – Costs actually go up.

Besides the overtime you need to pay your existing nurses to cover the short-staffed floors and the call-outs, you might need to deal with an increase in medical claims from your sick & stressed employees. In general, more call-outs and greater turnover can lead to a lower quality of care (more errors), and a definite increase in expensesWorking short staffed actually increases costs and negatively impacts patient care in the long run.

Chris Caulfield RN,MSN
Chief Nursing Officer | IntelyCare

Chris Caulfield (RN, NP-C), is the Co-founder and Chief Nursing Officer of Intelycare which the fastest growing Per-Diem Nurse Staffing organization in the US. IntelyCare is a technological enhanced platform that was founded in 2016 and now has over over 3,000 IntelyPros (RN, LPN, and CNA employees) serving over 150 healthcare facilities throughout the northeastern US.

Prior to founding IntelyCare, Chris’ past Healthcare experience includes Long Term Care Nursing, Nursing Informatics, Labor Relations, Case Management, and a Urgent Care Nurse Practitioner.