How Does Nurse Burnout Affect Patient Care?

Nurse Burnout

New York nurses experience “extremely high rates of burnout,” according to a national labor union. This burnout affects the patients they attend to, as well as the nurses themselves.

Many nurses must deal with poor working conditions.

A significant number of nurses said they have been victims of workplace violence or bullying, and a majority of them said the organization did not handle the incident well.

As a result of problems like these, most nurses say job stress affects their health. Many nurses exhibit Post Traumatic Stress Disorder-type symptoms.

From one perspective, there is no nursing shortage.

There are over three million registered nurses in the United States, and nursing is one of the fastest-growing professions in the country.

However, this growth might not keep pace with growing demand, especially since a wave of Baby Boomer nurses will probably retire in coming years.

“It’s a shortage of nurses who are willing to work in the conditions,” explained nursing union official Michelle Mahon.

Medical Professionals and Medical Negligence

Frequently, nurses are the bridge that connects doctors and patients. If that bridge is faulty, the possibility of medical negligence in general, and misdiagnosis in particular, increases.

Misdiagnosis is a serious problem in the United States. The overall misdiagnosis rate is about 20 percent. Some commonly misdiagnosed conditions include:

  • Cancer: According to some, the cancer diagnosis error rate might be twice as high as the overall mistake rate. To many medical professionals, cancer is a lifestyle or genetic condition. So, unless the patient has obvious risk factors, a cancer diagnosis is not in the cards.
  • Heart Disease: Roughly the same dynamics apply in this context. If there are no huge red flags, most medical professionals conclude that the patient could not possibly have heart disease. On a similar note, many patients do not experience signature symptoms, such as chest pains.
  • Head Injury: Car crashes are by far the leading cause of head injuries. Frequently, these wounds are misdiagnosed as shock from the accident or even early-onset dementia. As a result, the symptoms progress and the injury is more difficult to treat.

Fundamentally, a negligence case is not about “blaming” the nurse, doctor, or anyone else for the victim’s condition.

We all make mistakes, and we must all face the consequences of the mistakes we make.

Nursing Homes

The nursing shortage is already affecting many long-term care facilities. As many as 70 percent of these places are dangerously understaffed.

Understaffing has a snowball effect.

This environment adversely affects morale. Remaining nurses are overworked, and the staff exodus sometimes resembles rats leaving a sinking ship.

As a result, nurses suffer even more extreme symptoms and become burned out more quickly.

Furthermore, in understaffed environments, some facilities assign duties to unqualified professionals. For example, CNAs (certified nurse assistants) or other paraprofessionals might perform tasks that registered nurses should handle.

Understaffing, and the problems it spawns, directly contributes to a number of nursing home negligence issues, such as:

  • Bedsores: If patients roll over in bed every few hours, pressure ulcers are not a problem. But many patients cannot turn themselves over, and many understaffed nursing homes do not send people on regular rounds. Untreated bedsores quickly become life-threatening.
  • Resident-on-Resident Violence: Many residents have child-like mentalities. Petty squabbles over things like a preferred seat in the dining hall might become violent. And, a tiny bit of force might cause serious injury. Understaffed nursing homes do not have the resources to break up such fights before they escalate.

Once again, nursing home neglect is not anyone’s fault.

The issue is a lack of ordinary care.

And, victims should not bear the financial and emotional cost of their own recoveries.

Legal Options for Patients

Generally, the hospital, nursing home, or other employer is legally responsible for misdiagnosis and understaffing-related injuries.

Typically, the facility owner is a large out-of-state conglomerate which has little or no relationship to the community it serves.

Employer liability in general, and respondeat superior in particular, is one of the most common vicarious liability theories in negligence claims. This doctrine has two basic prongs:

  • Employee: For tax purposes, employees are usually people who receive W-2s. For negligence purposes, employees are people that the employer controls. This broader definition includes independent contractors and even most unpaid volunteers.
  • Scope of Employment: Similarly, any act which benefits the employer in any way is within the scope of employment.

Other employer liability theories, which often apply in assault and other intentional tort claims, include negligent hiring and negligent supervision.

Medical negligence is a serious problem in several different contexts. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in New York, contact Napoli Shkolnik PLLC. Attorneys can connect victims with well-qualified doctors, even if they have no insurance or money.