- 800 nurses at St. Mary Medical Centre, part of Trinity Health, near Philadelphia walked out Tuesday to protest hospital understaffing.
- About 42% of nurses nationwide said staffing has gotten “slightly or much worse recently,” per a recent survey.
- One study in the Journal of Nursing Administration found adding 10% more nurses to hospitals can reduce the odds a patient will die by 4%.
- “When we’re short-staffed, as we always are now, you don’t have the time to truly attend to the patient at the bedside,” Sue Lyons, a nurse at St. Marys, said in a statement.
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Hundreds of Philadelphia-area nurses walked off the job Tuesday as US healthcare workers burn out from record coronavirus hospitalizations.
800 nurses at St. Mary Medical Centre, part of the billion-dollar Trinity Health system, walked out to pressure the hospital into increasing staff during the recent coronavirus surge. The strike will continue until November 18.
The Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals, a union founded in 2000, is representing the nurses on strike. The union has pushed for two bills requiring hospitals in the commonwealth to disclose and set limits on how many patients a nurse cares for in a day.
The US reported a record 67,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations on November 12. As the third wave of coronavirus cases hits the country, hospitals are reaching capacity as hospital workers continue to suffer from burnout.
PASNAP said 243 nurses left St. Mary Medical Centre in the last two years due to burnout.
“Nurses are literally fleeing to other hospitals 20 minutes away where they can make $US6 to $US7 more an hour,” Kathy McKamey, a registered nurse at St. Mary, said in a statement provided by PASNAP. “My unit alone has lost 20 nurses since January; the perioperative areas have lost 35 nurses in the last year.”
More than 2,500 Philadelphia-area nurses had planned to go on strike during contract negotiations earlier this month. Nurses at Mercy Fitzgerald hospital settled their contract, and Einstein Medical Centre reached an agreement. But 500 nurses at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children may submit a strike notice soon, depending on the outcome during negotiations, a PASNAP representative told Business Insider.
The COVID-19 pandemic and understaffed hospitals have worsened nurse burnout
Nurses nationwide say staffing is a concern during the surge, according to a National Nurses United survey of 15,000 nurses. About 42% of nurses surveyed said staffing has gotten “slightly or much worse recently.”
Nurses are also bearing mental health repercussions from the extended outbreak and rise in hospitalizations. The NNU survey found 80% of hospital nurses report feeling more stressed since March, and nearly three-quarters feel more anxious.
The issues nurses are striking over â€” caring for too many patients at once, understaffed hospitals, and burnout â€” existed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thousands of nurses went on strike in 2019 to protest understaffed hospitals. In New York City, the epicentre of COVID-19 hospitalizations this spring, 71.8% of nurses said their work had been frequently interrupted or delayed due to insufficient staff as early as December 2019.
Many experts say burnout in healthcare workers leads to worse patient care. Adding 10% more nurses to hospitals can reduce the odds a patient will die by 4%, per research from nurse Linda Aikens, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Eliminating just one patient from a nurse’s workload can decrease the chance of death at hospitals with average work environments by 4%.
Case studies from Australia and California, the only state with mandated nurse-to-patient ratios, suggest putting caps on how many people a nurse cares for improves patient outcomes and lessens burnout.
Healthcare worker burnout reached breaking points before the COVID-19 outbreak. Physician burnout reached an all-time high in 2019, after 79% of primary care doctors reported workplace stress. A study out of the University of California at San Diego found nurses are more at risk for suicide than the general population.
“When we’re short-staffed, as we always are now, you don’t have the time to truly attend to the patient at the bedside,” Sue Lyons, a nurse at St. Marys, said in a statement. “That’s why we’re fighting.”
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