’Burnout factor’ in understaffed nursing homes means poor care

Posted on behalf of Stewart Bell, PLLC on Aug 01, 2012 in Nursing Home Information

Nursing homes providers in West Virginia and elsewhere frequently complain about frivolous claims and the exorbitant costs they incur in defending their companies against lawsuits. What they just as frequently fail to recognize is that their own profit-motivated decisions -- to cut corners on training and staffing levels at their facilities while demanding employees do more with less -- may be the biggest reason why many of those nursing home negligence lawsuits get filed in the first place.

According to a new university study published in this week's issue of the American Journal of Infection Control, focusing solely on the declining number of nurses in hospitals, nursing homes and other health care facilities ignores a key side effect of that trend that might just prove to be an even bigger contributing factor to negligent care

That factor is burnout, and it is a growing problem in America's nursing homes.

Although it seems like common sense to make the connection between ever larger workloads and low morale among nurses and other staff members, the emphasis on why staffing levels matter and the collateral effects of expecting too few staff to do too much over a sustained period of time are believed to make the study the first of its kind.

One of the study's most interesting findings was that almost all of the harm caused by large workloads seemed to stem directly from burnout. With that in mind, researchers estimated that if facilities could reduce the number of nurses suffering from burnout from the typical 30 percent down to 10 percent -- they could not only ensure better care but also save themselves millions of dollars in costs they might otherwise expend to settle or defend their companies against nursing home negligence lawsuits.

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, "Penn study examines link between nurse burnout, care," Don Sapatkin, July 30, 2012.

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