Understaffing: “to tell or not to tell” – The Patient!
Our decisions are reached using guiding ethical principles. Among those principles is beneficence which supports the belief that our actions should promote “good”. The result of beneficence is nonmaleficence which is to do no harm. These culminate in an overarching guiding ethical principle which many consider to be the highest ethical principle – respect for others.
There is a very thought provoking article in the May 2013 issue of the American Journal of Nursing entitled: Telling patients about staffing levels. The author, Douglas P. Olsen PhD, RN, presents a case study of an understaffed unit and challenges the reader to decide “to tell or not to tell” the patient.
Here is the Case Study he presents:
“It’s a very busy Monday. Because of chronic difficulty in recruiting staff, the unit has only three-fourths of its RN positions filled. In addition, Mary Evans, an experienced nurse who always helps less experienced staff with their patients while carrying a full caseload herself, has called in sick.
Linda Smith is 68 years old and two days post-op from hip replacement surgery. As you enter her room, 45 minutes after she first requested pain medication, you can sense her irritation—but worse than that, you can see from the grimace on her face and her guarded movements that she’s in pain. After several days of good nursing care, you’ve let her down, and you consider telling her about the staff shortage. But you wonder: Is it right to disclose today’s short staffing to Ms. Smith?”(Olsen, 2013)
Read the authors discussion of the decision-making process that takes place when deciding “to tell or not to tell” by following this link: Telling patients about staffing levels
If you were short-staffed to the degree that Mary Evans describes and it was hard to find the Time to Care…
What would you do?
Olsen, D. (2013). Telling patients about staffing levels. American Journal of Nursing. 113(5), 62-64. doi: 10.1097/01.NAJ.0000430239.60186.d1