To the Editor:
I was recently admitted to an area hospital for a sudden illness that occurred, requiring an ambulance ride to the facility. Upon arrival, I was taken to the fast-track area, where I would be cared for by an excellent registered nurse. She not only had me to care for, but she was also caring for five other patients who were suddenly finding themselves in need of expedient and urgent care.
As I remained in the emergency room for close to eight hours, I watched the two RNs go patient to patient, fulfilling the orders of the emergency department physician, seemingly with no break or time to even think. Patient after patient would arrive and they would continue with their nonstop care of the many patients needing their assistance.
For eight hours, I watched my RN do all she could for those of us who were unexpectedly finding ourselves in her care. She was the epitome of what every patient arriving at that hospital hoped to get, as their main caregiver. She was so very kind, caring, and compassionate, as well as overworked and barely able to catch her breath. She had an outright abusive patient load.
There was a clear lack of nurses in the ER, which would continue when I was admitted as an inpatient. As it was in the ER, the nurses on the floor were short-staffed and caring for six, seven, and even eight patients, with everyone requiring a great deal of care.
The staffing on the inpatient floor was not at the levels that I felt safe, as a patient. The nurses worked 12 or 13 hours straight, some probably forgoing their breaks and lunch to care for their egregious workload.
These nurses were put into a situation that they should never have had to work in. I wondered why they would return to this hospital three or four nights a week, knowing they would have to endure another 12 or more hours of straight care, probably without the help they needed, but then that question was answered when I watched them go room to room... they truly care about their patients.
Their pick of occupation was due to their overwhelming need to help others. They put up with the seeming inability of the management team to properly staff the hospital because they truly want to help those in need, but this will not continue much longer.
Management needs to find new staffing companies to fulfill the vast vacancies. They need to make this their number one priority. Patients, as well as nurses, who arrive each day for care or work, should be able to enter a safe facility, where a patient is cared for by exceptionally trained nurses at a patient-to-nurse ratio that reflects the facility's commitment to its community. Right now, that is not happening.
The additional patients arriving in this second wave of the pandemic are finding themselves being assigned to nursing ratios way above any safe staffing metric, and it has to be corrected before each of these caring, dedicated RNs finally say enough and leave for facilities that can properly staff their hospitals.
ED. NOTE: The U.S. is in the midst of a critical nursing shortage that is expected to continue through 2030, according to the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (https://bit.ly/2W5prXy).