CLEVELAND -- Some Ohio nurses say stress and staff shortages are burning them out and patient care is suffering.
The Plain Dealer reports the concerns are echoed by nurses across the state who say they love what they do but are overburdened by low staffing levels, greater numbers of patients and added responsibilities.
Some nurses consider leaving the profession, while others find ways to manage the stress. And they worry about what these issues mean for patients and the quality of care they receive.
Nationwide, 82 percent of nurses consider workplace stress the biggest risk to their health, according to the American Nurses Association's Health Risk Appraisal. And about 57 percent say they work extra hours — before or after work or during lunch and breaks — to handle their workload, according to the ANA survey, which was completed by 10,688 nurses and nursing students.
Yet the number of patients continues to grow and, with it, the burden on nurses. People are living longer thanks to medical advances, and some are coming in with increasingly more complex medical issues. In addition, hundreds of thousands of patients in the state gained insurance coverage under the Barack Obama administration's health care overhaul and Ohio's Medicaid expansion.
"Our patients are more complex, and they're sicker," said Kelly Hancock, executive chief nursing officer for the Cleveland Clinic Health System and chief nursing officer for Cleveland Clinic Main Campus.
The Clinic saw 1.9 million unique patients in 2016, a 4 percent increase from the previous year.
By 2020, Northeast Ohio will have a nursing shortage of 3,500, according to the Center for Health Affairs Northeast Ohio Nursing Initiative's Nursing Forecaster.
To fill that gap, hospitals are working with local colleges to prepare new nurses to enter the workforce, hosting recruiting fairs and hiring support staff to help with some aspects of patient care. But hospitals also are trying to operate more efficiently.
Brian Burger, president of the Ohio Nurses Association and a nurse practitioner at Beacon Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine in Cincinnati, said one of the biggest contributors to burnout is the nurse-to-patient ratio. Hospitals need to factor in how much care a patient will need when deciding how many nurses to staff a unit, he said.
"Just managing it by strict ratios isn't enough; you need acuity as well," said Burger. "A nurse having more patients leads to medical errors. It leads to hospital re-admissions. It leads to more money than just being proactive and having more staff in the hospitals."