Corporate health not helpful to nurses, patients are the biggest losers
Nursing is a stressful profession. Nurses work with very sick patients, body fluids, deadly bacteria, and viruses. They experience aggression from patients, threats of being sued, crazy long hours, and insane patient load.
Other common problems are, lack of sleep, no time to eat or go to the bathroom. They are responsible for passing dangerous medications that can harm patients. Few other professions has such wide variety of stressful situations.
Now there is a new form of stress – Corporate nursing. For profit corporate nursing is here to stay; and will only intensify with the Trump’s administration. Corporate nursing comes with a built in problem: what is good for patients Vs. what is good for company profits.
In a complex business such as health care – profit generating comes directly out of patient’s well being. This is due to health care’s intense need for all available resources. If all resources available are used for patient care, that leaves little room for profit making.
Damage to staff environment
Lately, hospitals are not providing safe and effective environment for nurses to work. Attention has been shifted to excelling at a profit making. Instead of having a supportive atmosphere, managers use tactics that dis empower nurses in every possible way to maximize their productivity as if hospitals were sweat shops.
Cutting costs is the rule number one for increasing profits. Nurses are forced to work heavy patient loads; forced to complete tasks in a hurry without enough time allotted. Nurses are facing increased lack of resources because staff is being limited in every level forcing nurses to take care of non nursing related tasks.
Working relations have also deteriorated. Nurses are not well respected, and leadership lack real meaning as nurses are not taken seriously as they desperately need more support. Benefits are being cut and pay diminished. As nurses, young and old are usually at the threshold of burn out, and retention of nurses diminishes.
A survey by Vickie Milazzo President of a nurse legal consulting business called my attention. The survey is called “Are You Way Too Stressed Out?” Survey Results. The article is a pristine vision of nursing today, and offers viable positive alternatives. I am using some of its power points for my argument and commentary.
The survey ultimately denounces how corporate health care is basically destroying nursing culture. Nurses are being overworked, and disrespected by management at a time when the opposite should be happening.
Nurses are unable to have a personal life or strike a healthy work-life balance. Nurses are not able to deliver the quality of care they know patients need, because they ultimately lack support themselves. Nurses are stressed not only by the poor conditions at work but deal with an insensitive and aggressive management who prioritizes profits above all.
The survey was intended to draw attention to the deteriorating working conditions nurses are facing. It is based on the answers from 3,312 respondents. Fifty percent of nurses surveyed had more than 20 years’ experience, 23% between 11 – 20 years, 15% 5 -10 and 12% less than 5 years. Stress was noted not only on older nurses but also young ones entering the profession. The survey point out to how the undermining of nursing profession can put patients at risk and create nursing shortages which could take years to repair.
Stressed nurses impact on patient care
Aggressive corporate style management is not improving health care in any way. By not supporting nurses, they undermine the profession putting patient at risk.
1) It interferes with team play. A health care organization without a strong team play is like an army with no cohesion. Its strength which lies in its soldiers is severely weakened when individuals are fighting for their grievances rather than trying to finish for their patients.
2) Direct effect on care: employees who are not happy in they work and profession are more likely to perform poorly or leave the profession entirely.
3) Medication errors: nurses who are overworked and sleep deprived are more likely to make medication errors.
4) Undermine adequate training: hospitals are denying new nurses proper training. To cut costs, hospitals have eliminated new grad programs. Today only a few places offer new grad programs. Instead they rely on travelers because they can be easily terminated. Travel nurses don’t have ties to the local community and have unchecked background and experience.
Nurses represent the largest percentage of healthcare industry workers, with more than 2.7 million in the U.S. (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 2014). Nurses are in the forefront of healthcare. It is hard to imagine the health care industry undermining nurses, their sole bread and butter.
The trend however is to undermine nursing as hospitals find themselves with an upper hand on nurse’s availability. Because older nurses are postponing retirement and a surge in new graduate nurses are constantly tricking in, hospitals experience an oversupply of nurses. However, this advantage could be short lived as baby boomers get older and things change.
Corporate care and irresponsibility
When health care is made to be an industry for profit like any other, we have a problem. The United States have the most expensive health care in the world and not much to show for. The U.S. spent $7,960 per capita in health care in 2009 and is the most expensive health care system in the world. Americans are not getting the service they are paying for according to a survey.
Health care, and profits are incompatible. Any profits diverted in health care compromises care quality. Hospitals are cutting staff and reducing pay, since 60% of their expenses are nurse’s payroll. Patients are secondary to profits for this new style of management. Hospitals have a way out of scrutiny because care quality is difficult to be evaluate by the uninformed public. Study results are easy to be manipulated, since most are funded by other for profit industries as well.
Patients are unable to determine what is safe and reliable care. Only health care professionals can easily evaluate what can and what can’t be done. But doctors and nurses usually find it difficult to work with the public openly because for profit health care have different agendas.
At the end of the day, nurses must fight the corporation system in order to provide good care. Hospitals who are supposed to be “not for profit” are also making record profits; CEO’s are making record profits. The billions of dollars in excess profits by upper management and CEO’s has a direct impact in the quality of care because it is taken directly from resources not provided, and staff not hired.
Nurses vulnerable position and media stigmas
Unfortunately nurses are stuck between a rock and a hard place. They are expected to be forgiven and compassionate and provide excellent services. But without adequate support from management it is nearly impossible to live to higher standards. The public is not always aware they have paid for a service they are not receiving.
The concept of good care is murky in the public’s mind. But one way or the other, corporate health care is never blamed because they are virtually invisible to the public. Nurses and doctors instead, are in the forefront and therefore blamed for the bad quality of care.
- “Are You Way Too Stressed Out?” Survey Results
- Stress causing psychosomatic illness among nurses
- Violence Against Nurses and its Impact on Stress and Productivity
- International Comparison of Spending on Health, 1980–2009
Image credit: Stewart Black