Medical Malpractice Due To Hospital Understaffing

In yesterday’s post we discussed a recent study which found that many medical malpractice injuries are attributable to hospital understaffing. Researchers found that adding a single patient to a nurse’s workload increased the risk of catheter-related urinary tract infections and surgery-site infections.

While increasing a nurse’s workload was linked to a proportional number of new urinary tract infections, a 10 percent workload increase could cause a 50 percent jump in surgical site infections. This is concerning because surgical site infections are typically much more serious and expose a patient to many more potential complications than a urinary tract infection.

Infections are just one possible result of nursing negligence. Other serious injuries that are associated with nursing negligence include assaults, medication errors and falls.

Some have characterized nursing burnout as a symptom of bad hospital management. By worsening conditions for patients, hospitals are making it more likely that a costly medical malpractice situation will arise. Nurses are also far more likely to miss small signs of infection or worsening health situations such as temperature changes when they are caring for too many patients.

Proactive approaches by hospitals to improve the work environment for nurses will likely result in better outcomes for patients. The resulting decrease in medical malpractice rates will tend to offset any initial costs associated with maintaining a larger staff of caregivers.