Despite record-low unemployment numbers, the U.S. Department of Labor reports that more than 11 million job openings remain across the country as of May 31. Worker shortages impact nearly every industry, but health care remains one of the hardest-hit sectors.
Staffing shortages at hospitals, clinics and nursing homes are not a new phenomenon but have increased since the pandemic’s beginning. A recent survey by consulting firm McKinsey & Company estimates that by 2025, the U.S. could see a nursing shortage of 200,000 to 450,000. The risks to patients are many.
How shortages can lead to medical malpractice
Hospitals, nursing homes and other medical facilities also experience shortages of non-medical staff members. Those who remain often take on a greater burden for patient care, with many suffering from burnout and other conditions. Medical facilities and employees can be held responsible for medical malpractice due to a variety of reasons, such as:
- Dangerous conditions
- Negligent hiring, training or practices
- Poor or negligent record-keeping
- Medication errors
- Missed diagnoses or misdiagnoses
- Surgical mistakes
In February, 84% of hospital CEOs cited a lack of clinical support staff as their No. 1 concern. Most say they have had to enforce patient limits and cancel elective surgeries as a result.
Other reasons for staff shortages
Staffing issues do not solely result from the Great Resignation, where employees seek a better work-life balance. Understaffing in hospitals and nursing homes occur due to several factors, including:
- Low pay for nursing and non-nursing staff
- For-profit companies cutting costs
- Less investment in healthcare training
- An increase in violence against healthcare workers since March 2020
- Stressful work situations
Customer service is crucial for the success of any business serving the public. However, a customer’s well-being is not usually at risk for staffing shortages at restaurants or clothing stores. Hospitals and medical professionals have a duty of care to their patients, and they can be held accountable when they fail to meet those standards.