new video loaded: We Know the Real Cause of the Crisis in Our Hospitals. It’s Greed.

bars
0:00/6:39
-6:39

transcript

We Know the Real Cause of the Crisis in Our Hospitals. It’s Greed.

Nurses would like to set the record straight on the hospital staffing crisis.

“You know, they call you an asshole.” “Been called a bitch a thousand times.” “A [expletive].” “A knocked-up [expletive] whore.” “Get the eff out of his effing room, you effing N-word.” “I’ve been bitten.” “Choked.” “Punched in the mouth.” “I had a guy try to kick me in my stomach while I was pregnant.” “That poor nurse at your bedside has probably been through hell with the last 10 or 15 hours, and then you come in demanding ESPN. Are you kidding me?” “And it’s like, ‘Well, yeah, I got punched in the head tonight.’ At any other job would be like, ‘What are you talking about?’” Two years into the pandemic, Covid is surging. America’s frontline nurses are overworked, burned out and quitting in droves. The H is for ‘hospital,’ not ‘hotel.’ Treat me with respect.” As Omicron pushes hospitals to the brink, America is facing a national nursing shortage. But it’s not patient abuse that is ultimately driving the crisis. “I literally don’t even want to be a nurse anymore. Like, this [expletives] sucks.” It’s not emotional trauma. “I hate my job, and I don’t want to go back.” It’s not even Covid. “I cannot do this anymore.” The biggest force that’s driving nurses away: greedy hospitals. “I could no longer work in critical care under the conditions I was being forced to work under with poor staffing, and that’s when I left.” To maximize profits, American hospitals have been intentionally understaffing nurses for decades, long before the pandemic. What the hospital industry doesn’t want you to know is that there’s never been more licensed nurses in America. Hospitals just aren’t hiring them. “There’s not a shortage of nurses. There’s just a shortage of nurses willing to work under those conditions.” “If you don’t have enough nurses, patients will die. They will become sicker, and they will die.” If you’re in the hospital, your chances of dying go up by 7 percent for every additional patient your nurse has to care for. “If you push me past my limit, past my capacity of being able to multitask, something’s going to get missed. And when I say something, I’m talking about your mother. I’m talking about your father. I’m talking about your husband and your wife.” “There have been many instances where patients did die that shouldn’t have died. I know that unequivocally, families — they feel like you’ve done the best job that you can. And the reality is we’re not.” “I could not get into her room for over two hours. When I did get into the room, she had tears in her eyes. She was crying and holding on to me. And when I looked in her bed, she was soiled in urine. I felt like I did a bad job. I felt less than the nurse that I know I am. And I started to cry all the way home. Can I make another shift? Can I do this again tomorrow and get in my car and drive here and do this again?” The system was already broken. Covid has just made it way worse. “In one 12-hour shift, we had six patients die under the age of 50. And as quickly as they got those beds cleaned, there was more patients there.” “A patient grabbed my hand, and he begged me to not let him die. Sorry. And I told him that we would do everything we could within our power. And I felt like I was ready to fall apart, but I couldn’t because the patient in the next room needed me.” To understand how the situation became so desperate, you have to remember that hospitals are just like any other business. Staffing takes up about half the budget. So a smaller work force means bigger profits. “Hospitals use this type of what they call flex staffing. So they flex for just the bare minimum at that hour of the day. And then three hours goes by, there’s many more patients, and then it’s, well, you have this many nurses. You’ll have to just make do.” “The most annoying thing that was ever said to me in my career by an administrator was, ‘We know you guys need nurses, but it’s not in the budget.’” The situation is dire. More than 40 percent of nurses are thinking of leaving the profession. “I hope to be able to leave the bedside within this year.” “I don’t know how long I can do this physically, mentally, emotionally.” “I will never work in a hospital setting again. I will never subject myself to that sort of frustration, and I will never be part of what’s being done to patients in a hospital that way.” Focusing on pandemic burnout lets hospitals off the hook. We should be talking about better nurse-to-patient ratios, which would save lives. “There really needs to be a systemic change from a legislative standpoint.” “Why wouldn’t you limit the number of patients, human lives that nurses hold in their hands every day to a certain amount that’s safe?” The solution is simple. Pass common-sense laws that limit the number of patients for each nurse. Pennsylvania and Illinois both have bills pending that would do just that. But a similar law in Massachusetts failed to pass in 2018, thanks, in part, to a $25 million campaign by the hospital lobby. “It puts government in charge of deciding how nurses care for patients, with the same rigid staffing ratios at every hospital in our state. A one-size-fits-all attempt to override the professional judgment of nurses.” The problem with these ads — they’re misleading. Just look at California, where a bill like this did pass. The result: more nurses hired, more nurses staying in their jobs and better patient outcomes. This is a national emergency but one created by the hospital industry, not the pandemic. We need to save lives, not profits. “It’s my biggest fear is to miss something that hurts someone, because I’m not there to hurt. I’m there to help. And we need more help.” [MUSIC PLAYING]

Opinion

We Know the Real Cause of the Crisis in Our Hospitals. It’s Greed.

By Lucy King and Jonah M. Kessel January 19, 2022

Nurses would like to set the record straight on the hospital staffing crisis.

Recent episodes in Opinion
Opinion Video features innovative video journalism commentary — argued essays, Op-Ed videos, documentaries, and fact-based explanation of current affairs. The videos are produced by both outside video makers and The Times’s Opinion Video team.
Opinion Video features innovative video journalism commentary — argued essays, Op-Ed videos, documentaries, and fact-based explanation of current affairs. The videos are produced by both outside video makers and The Times’s Opinion Video team.