Nurse Strike Suggests Need for New Staffing Models

December 30th, 2011 1 Min read Nurse Strike Suggests Need for New Staffing Models Blog
Last week's nurse strike in California, followed by the threat of a nurse strike in New York, represents a growing concern over inadequate staffing levels and its potential effect on patient care. The nurses involved claim that hospital cutbacks have compromised safe staffing levels, resulting in overworked nurses who are more apt to make deadly medical mistakes. Substantiating this concern, the Joint Commission recently issued a Sentinel Event Alert warning that healthcare worker fatigue increases the risk of adverse events and threatens patient safety. While the Joint Commission offers several suggestions for prevention, it doesn't specifically mention leveraging temporary staffing. Ironically, the California hospitals affected by the nurse strike turned to temporary workers to maintain continuity in patient care. This is a common reaction by hospital management, i.e., bring in temporary workers to fill sudden staff vacancies. But what if travel nurses were brought in earlier to help cover shifts? Could it have helped alleviate some of the stress on the permanent staff? Likewise, when is it time to bring in a locum tenens when the overworked physician calls in sick? What if, instead, hospitals started developing strategic staffing models that leverage temporary workers? Could this be part of the solution?