Patient care is deteriorating in the ward setting, as nurses are often overworked in their daily jobs. This is due to understaffing, long hours and high stress; thus results in errors of nursing care, and ultimately, compromises a patient's health. Some associated hazards, and how they are identified and managed, are looked at. These include: medication errors, poor manual handling techniques, critical points of care being skipped over or missed completely, short cuts in procedures, and many other malpractices. Each of these factors are daily occurrences in some facilities. Clearly the issue of the overworked nurse needs to be addressed, as it is a potential hazard to both patient and nurse.
As a general overview of the issue, nurses are being forced into overworking due to understaffing. "We now have a situation where many of our public hospitals are attempting to operate with between 10-25 per cent less nursing staff than required" (James, 2002, p.5).
This increases the workload, causes high stress levels and low productivity, creating a poor working environment and atmosphere. "Studies show that nursing shortages contribute to a greater patient risk of infection, bleeding, and heart and lung failure" (Anstett, 2003, p.15). For example: a set of tasks may be given to a nurse to be completed in a certain achievable time frame. However, if a task takes longer then usual, for any reason, the nurse may attempt to save time to complete his/her tasks by rushing, skipping parts of care, or not following correct procedures. "Overworked nurses are contributing to substantial numbers of preventable medical errors in hospitals" (Anstett, 2003, p.1).
A risk assessment of the hazard of the overworked nurse is an essential element of identifying the problem and must occur before management strategies are implemented. The assessment would have to include such things...