When our local Walmart chooses to under staff check out clerks, customers get grumpy due to long lines, but no lives are lost. When hospitals under staff doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists, lives are put at risk.
I am told we cannot staff for the what-ifs, but I contend that when you manage a hospital this is simply the cost of doing business. When there are few patients you still have to staff a minimum level of nurses in each department no matter what. If you don't do this, you are setting your hospital up for a major lawsuit.
One hospital I work for forced me to work in an under staffed RT department recently, and for the first eight hours I did nothing. Then at 3 p.m. I was called STAT to three places at the same time. Knowing that the term STAT is abused in hospitals, I took my time and responded to one STAT call at a time. And when one person told me I responded "way too slow," I said: "Talk to my boss. He's the one who doesn't want to staff for the what-ifs."
Then I went out of my way to encourage all the people involved in these three STAT calls to write up the situations where I and a few nurses were late, because that's the only way the problem will ever be addressed. Yet I don't think anything will change, because most hospitals in this nation aren't concerned about saving lives as much as they are about saving money.
When I mentioned this to the boss at that hospital he said, "You're just gonna have to work a little harder, and call in help."
Yeah, that's easier said than done. I said, "At what point do I stop to make this phone call? Do I stop before I respond to the first STAT call, second, third? I don't know when I'm going to be busy, or even that these STAT calls are going to amount to anything. By the time help comes they will more than likely be of no use to me anyway -- which is why help should already be here."
That boss got mad at me, and I apologized, yet I said, "No one else has the nerve to tell you guys, so I'm merely the messenger. So don't fire the messenger."
As far as working a little harder, I said, "I don't think it's fair to ask me to kill myself so you guys can save a little money. When it's truly busy, I work hard enough as it is. If you guys want us to work in under staffed environments as I did today, then you're going to have to make waves and address the issues of STAT abuse and Ventolin abuse."
That was it. That was all I said. I grabbed my bag and left. I didn't even bother to pick up my bowls I left by the computer. I didn't even bother to change into my boots. I just left. I didn't even punch out I was so irate. And, considering I only work pool at that hospital, I may not go back. This post was written in February of 2013.