Survey: 90% of nurses admit they do not have enough time to properly care for patients

As hospitals across the U.S. face a nursing shortage, care quality and patient safety continue to be put in jeopardy. Nurses are frequently assigned more patients, with 90 percent of nurses admitting they lack adequate time to properly comfort and assist patients, according to a survey of Massachusetts nurses conducted by Anderson Robbins Research.

The survey, "The State of Patient Care in Massachusetts," is a survey of Massachusetts nurses conducted annually and commissioned by the Massachusetts Nurses Association. Most of the nurses surveyed are not MNA members.

Survey respondents consisted of registered nurses working in Massachusetts healthcare facilities who were randomly selected from a complete file of the 100,000 nurses registered with the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing. 

Here are seven survey findings.

1. Having to care for too many patients at one time was the most significant challenge to RNs giving high-quality patient care, with 77 percent of nurses identifying unsafe patient assignments as an issue.

2. The majority (77 percent) of nurses reported medication errors, such as giving patients the wrong medication or dosage, as a result of caring for too many patients at once.

3. Seventy-two percent of nurses said readmission of patients was a consequence of caring for too many patients at the same time.

4. Additionally, 64 percent of nurses said patient injury or harm was linked to unsafe RN patient assignments.

5. Nurses said hospital management does not typically adjust patient assignments to meet patients' needs, with more than 6 in 10 (63 percent) reporting management only occasionally adjusts their patient assignments to meet patients' needs.

6. Less than one-third (31 percent) of respondents believe Massachusetts hospitals' mergers and acquisitions have improved care quality. The survey also found only 27 percent of nurses believe hospitals' business relationships with pharmaceutical companies and/or medical device makers improve patient care.

7. The survey found nearly 90 percent of nurses support a pending ballot measure that would set safe patient limits hospital nurses based on patient needs. 

The Coalition to Protect Patient Safety found several issues with the survey, noting it oversampled union nurses and did not disclose the survey's sample size, margin of error or how the questions were worded, which falls below the accepted standards of the American Association for Public Opinion Research. 

Editor's note: This article was updated on May 14 at 10:30 a.m. to include a perspective on the survey from the Coalition to Protect Patient Safety.

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