Why U.S. nurses are suffering 'work hangovers'

While prominent industry players have attributed widespread understaffing issues to a nursing shortage, some industry experts and recent research claim such a shortage does not exist, The Guardian reports.

Healthcare industry experts have for decades discussed the severity of the nursing shortage affecting hospitals and health systems in the U.S., the report states. However, recent research and projections conducted by the HHS' Health Resources and Services Administration indicate most states are not suffering from a nursing shortage, and that a surplus will likely grow during the next decade.

Instead, nurses unions like National Nurses United claim the proposed shortage represents a reluctance on the part of hospitals and health systems to cut profit margins and hire additional staff.

"It's a convenient argument for the industry to validate their under-resourcing of registered nurses on the floor, simply saying there's a nursing shortage, but there isn't," a National Nurses United member told The Guardian. "It's a market decision that benefits the employer."

The individual said understaffing in the short-term leads to what's referred to as "the nurse hangover," or fatigue and malaise comparable to a hangover from alcohol. The condition also leads to long-term effects such as burnout, high staff turnover and patient safety errors.

Two nurses with St. Paul, Minn.-based United Hospital told The Guardian they see significant issues when it comes to nurses not taking breaks because they do not want to potentially jeopardize their patients' care.

"Nurses aren't getting their breaks because they don't want to compromise the safety of their patients and they don't want to put undue work on their coworkers in order to take care of patients when there is a better solution," one nurse told the publication.

A spokesperson for United Hospital's parent company, Minneapolis-based Allina Health, told The Guardian in an emailed statement: "It appears based on our reports, what you are being told by the two nurses is inaccurate. We work hard to ensure a safe and supportive work environment for all our caregivers. Our staffing ratios are consistent with the level of care required in each unit."

To access the full report, click here.

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