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Feb
7

Our healthcare system is breaking, part 4

This is the fourth attempt to warn you about the impending disaster facing all of us. 

Our incredibly dysfunctional healthcare system is collapsing, falling apart as thousands of highly-experienced and very well-trained critical staff leave care provider roles.

Two national nursing experts:

  • nurses who are inexperienced are replacing those who retired or were enticed by financial incentives to become travel nurses.
  • So many older nurses have quit, and younger nurses are at the bedside.

Hospitals are turning to traveling staff, costing facilities 4 to 5 times more than full-time workers. In response, and in a classic “treat the symptom while ignoring the problem” move some well-intentioned but pretty clueless elected officials are trying to pass a bill that would restrict traveling staff agencies’ pricing.

That is both pointless and pathetic. It reflects those officials’ paying attention to healthcare executives while ignoring what’s happening to care workers on front lines.

Instead our Representatives should be:

  • confronting those who are lying about COVID and vaccines,
  • using every tool and lever they have to support health care workers,
  • implementing financial penalties for illegitimate vaccine refusers in the form of higher premiums, copays, and deductibles.

It’s even worse at long-term care and rehab facilities…and it has undoubtedly gotten worse since those data were collected back in June 2021. And it’s happening in Florida, California, and Indiana – and in your state too.

Here’s why. And no, it’s not vaccine mandates.

From a great piece in The Baltimore Sun:

The great “financialization” of the health care industry has finally trickled down. Capitalism and the unfettered and unfiltered drive for the dollar has degraded the nursing profession in many regards. The historic exploitation of nurses to increase productivity and reduce costs, worsened by the pandemic, has led to a historic nursing shortage being faced today. [emphasis added]

This is the macro, structural driver – the unbound drive for profits..

COVID – and more specifically disinformation and vaccine resistance – has greatly accelerated and deepened the crisis. 

The multiple waves of COVID and the relentless flood of disinformation and lies have crushed the life out of nurses and healthcare workers, each successive wave burying healthcare workers ever deeper until many can see no escape.  Nurses are at much higher risk for suicide than most other workers.

Experienced, trained, passionate and skilled nurses and healthcare workers are leaving patient care.

What does this mean for you?

Sooner or later you will bring a family member to a hospital.

The staff will be less experienced, less skilled, less knowledgeable and less able to provide care.

Lies and disinformation have consequences.

 


2 thoughts on “Our healthcare system is breaking, part 4”

  1. I’m not necessarily disagreeing with your statements, however, do feel as though too much emphasis on the issue is being blamed on COVID and some pertinent information was omitted. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, this nursing shortage has been predicted since as early as 2010. The United States Registered Nurse Workforce Report Card and Shortage Forecast: A Revisit was published in May/June 2018. Prior to the pandemic. Qualified nursing school applicants are being turned away from schools for various reasons, i.e. faculty shortage, classroom space, budget constraints. In 2017, it was predicted more than 1 million registered nurses will leave the workforce by 2030. That’s a large number that are NOT being replaced likely for reasons other than COVID. In 2018 it was estimated that the average age for a RN was 50 years old. Being a bit over that age myself, I can tell you that I don’t know that I would be able to support the physical or emotional requirements that job entails on an ongoing basis, much less if I had been doing it my entire career (and to your credit, most recently during a pandemic). Again, I’m not saying COVID is not adding to the problem, but simply stating that perhaps it should be clear that COVID is not the cause of the shortage, but merely a contributing factor to an already existing problem that needs to be addressed. Your suggestions for what representative should be doing seems to target more of the COVID related part of the problem. I would be interested on your thoughts about what they could do to address the entire underlying issue…

    1. Hello Nina and thanks for your thoughtful note.

      I agree that systemic/structural issues are certainly at play here, and attempted to reference that in the post. The question is why was the care-delivery nurse shortfall happening? You noted a big part of the answer – it is a very difficult job with major emotional and physical stressors. Employers could have done a FAR better job understanding and addressing these issues with their nursing staffs. Instead most just tried to keep hiring more new nurses as the older ones left.

      Taking care of workers is central to what is going on in our society now. People who had crappy jobs have had enough. Health care systems and hospitals need to do a far better job caring for their workers than they do. And a major part of the problem is the for-profit nature of the health care system; profits before people.

      Finally, we have family members working in hospital ERs, and I can tell you the stress and the toll it is taking is beyond imagination. COVID deniers yelling and cursing at staff, caring for critically ill patients in the ER’s hallways, worrying they are bringing COVID home to their family, working next to a traveling nurse making three times what they are, administrators telling them this is the “new normal” and they need to get used to it.

      Net is there has been a long term but relatively slow-developing trend, and we just got hit but a massive event that greatly accelerated the problem.

      Be well, Joe

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Joe Paduda is the principal of Health Strategy Associates

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A national consulting firm specializing in managed care for workers’ compensation, group health and auto, and health care cost containment. We serve insurers, employers and health care providers.

 

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