Guest Blog Entry
Anyone is welcome to submit a Guest Blog Entry to torontomike.com. I received the following entry earlier today.
As a nurse, I am fascinated by hearing patients' perspectives. Their realities are so very different from mine while they are in the hospital. I need to keep hearing what it's like for them, so that I don't take my position as RN for granted. Sometimes patients are just a "Gall Bladder Attack in room 2" because it's easier that way. Our health care system has gaping holes and there is no doubt room for improvement on the ER line. Nurses are constantly forced to shuffle the needs of the sick and injured using a Triage system. Triage is a brief clinical assessment that determines the time and sequence in which patients should be seen in the ER. These decisions generally are based on a short evaluation of the patient and an assessment of vital signs. The patient's overall appearance, history of illness and/or injury, and mental status also are important in the triage decision. Triage in the ER lacks sensitivity and specificity and is high risk. Triage nurses may feel the pressure from long lines of patients, which may cause them to perform triage too quickly and minimize or dismiss subtle signs of high-risk disease. Triage nurses should be urged to error on the side of caution by assigning patients to more severe triage categories. Ideally, Emergency room nurses would typically have four or five patients per shift. Realistically, now on an average day they have 10 to 12 patients.
The future doesn't look any brighter. Studies show that by 2010, 40 percent of all registered nurses will be over 50. By 2020 there will be an estimated shortfall of 808,400 nurses, partly because many will have retired or become so dissatisfied that they've quit, but also because fewer people are entering the profession.
Yet our population is aging and those over the age of 65 will double in number over the next 2 decades. The elderly are often visitng our ER's due to heart attacks, strokes and falls, I see trouble ahead. I have seen some of the hardest-working and most professional nurses you will find. But when you're given 12 patients when you should have six, well, you're only so good. Nurses are being steamrolled, stretched thin and beaten down, and the best of us are frustrated.
I appreciate reading your perspective. 10-12 emergency room patients per nurse makes me a little queasy.