The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Nurse shortage kills

Aug 12, 2002

According to a report of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, one in four cases of unanticipated deaths or injuries among hospital patients is being caused by a shortage of nurses.

This is the result of a study which examined patient deaths and injuries since 1996. In other words, it took these “experts” six years and an expensive study to figure out that there is a severe nurse shortage which compromises healthcare and endangers lives on a daily basis. They could have spared themselves the time and money if they just had asked healthcare workers and patients about it!

Today, about one in eight nursing positions in the U.S. is vacant. A recent report in Pennsylvania stated that 50% less nursing care was available to patients today than in 1980.

But what has caused nursing care in particular, and healthcare in general, to go backwards in the last two decades?

In a word, capitalism.

In the last 20 years, more and more hospitals came under the control of for-profit corporations. In an effort to cut costs and increase profits, these companies merged hospitals and reduced the number of healthcare workers. The government reduced the amount of money it put into educating new nurses and healthcare workers. In nursing, they changed classifications in order to reduce staffing and pay. As a result the workload and stress level of nurses increased, which in turn caused many nurses to leave the profession. Conscious decisions were made which created the nursing “shortage.”

In the last few decades, medical science and technology made great advances. If we lived in a rational, humane society, this would translate into better healthcare for the population and less workload and less stress for healthcare workers.

But we live in capitalist society, in which healthcare is just another commodity for bosses to try to sell and make a profit out of. Working people pay the price – both as patients and as healthcare workers.