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Working Conditions Fueling A Global Shortage

Nurses' Working Conditions Are Fueling A Global Shortage

When Andrea Buchheit became a nurse in 1999, it was her dream come true. She was thrilled at the opportunity to care for people in need. Eight years later, the dream has turned sour. Low staffing numbers, heavy workloads, inadequate resources and insufficient compensation, are taking a toll on her morale.

Like many nurses around the world, Buchheit, a registered nurse at St. Mary of Nazareth Hospital Center in Chicago, worries about working conditions to properly care for her patients. She typically is responsible for seven to eight patients, when five to six is more manageable with the diabetic and cancer patients she cares for.

She recalls the time when she alone had to care for nine patients and two emergencies at once, as her worst experience. "It's that these are people's lives. I'm so afraid someone is going to die and it's going to be because I couldn't get to them."

A 2002 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that patients face a 7 % greater likelihood of death, for every patient above four assigned to a registered nurse. Each year 20,000 deaths in the United States are linked to inadequate nurse staffing levels, says the report. As International Nurses Day is celebrated on 12 May, Public Services International, a global union federation that represents 7 million health care employees in more than 150 countries, continues to campaign for reasonable staffing ratios, improved working conditions, and better wages and benef i t s f or nur s es .“Nur s es pl ay a c ent r al r ol e i n t he c ar e of pat i ent s ,” say s Hans Engelbert s , Gener al Sec r et ar y of PSI

.“Their role goes bey ond the professional services they provide.They ar e the most direct and continuous link between patients and all of those involved in their treatment .” In most countries, nurses provide the majority of health services, up to 80 percent in some cases. Yet, the working conditions are driving many nurses to leave their profession early. They are the victims of shrinking budgets, mismanaged privatization and the urge for market-driven policies. Leading to unreasonable nurse-patient ratios, excessive workloads, growing incidence of workplace violence, low wages, under-valuing of work, and inadequate protections from occupational hazards.

“Government's and health care institutions must go beyond elegant speeches on International Nurses Day and mak e c ons i s t ent efforts ,every day ,to provide nurses with the resources, pay, benefits, working conditions, and the recognition and respect they deserve for the service they provide to society. PSI is committed to continue to campaign for quality health services f or al l .”


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