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Too little nursing staff : One nurse for 13 patients
Measured by the number of patients, there are significantly fewer nursing staff in German clinics than in other comparable countries. This can be found in a current study of government regulations on staffing levels ("nurse-to-patient ratios") at hospitals, which was financed by the union-affiliated Böckler Foundation.
Twice as many patients per nurse as in the Netherlands
While one nurse has to look after 13 patients on average in this country, the ratio in Switzerland and Sweden is around one to eight. In the Netherlands it is one in seven. And in the USA there are only 5.3 patients for every nurse.
The difference is particularly pronounced for night shifts. For one night in 2015, the Verdi union determined that 17,000 nurses had to care for around 324,000 patients nationwide. That corresponds to a ratio of one to 19. And sometimes the personnel key was even worse. Two out of three nurses worked alone; they had an average of 26 sick people to look after. There were more than 30 at every sixth station.
In California, caregivers cannot be reduced even at night
In Australia, on the other hand, as the study authors Michael Simon and Sandra Mehmecke explain, depending on the size and specialization of the clinic, only eight to ten patients are allowed to see one nurse at night. And in California, the personnel key is the same around the clock: as many nurses have to be on the ward during the night as during the day. Offsetting using average values is expressly prohibited.
Measured by international standards, Verdi concludes from the survey, around 19,500 additional full-time employees are needed in this country only for the night shifts. That would be more than twice as many as before. A total of 70,000 nurses were lacking in German clinics.
Study: Statutory personnel requirements are helpful
In order to reduce overload and quality deficiencies, statutory minimum standards for personnel keys are very helpful, according to the study. So far, there are hardly any such requirements in this country. North Rhine-Westphalia is an exception, where a one-to-two key has recently been applied to intensive care units. However, this is legally "so soft that it has had little effect so far," says Verdi expert Niko Stumpfögger.
And in Berlin hospital planning, there is only the request for intensive care medicine "to comply with the recommendations of the German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine, if possible."
Higher risk of infection and thrombosis
The numerical ratio between nurses and patients is not only an important yardstick for working conditions, emphasized the scientists. It also influences the quality of care and patient health. Empirical studies have shown that staffing has an effect, among other things, on the risk of infections, thromboses and deaths due to complications recognized too late.
The federal government should no longer ignore the effects of staff shortages on patients and employees, demands Sylvia Bühler from the Verdi federal executive board. “In view of the situation, it is no longer justifiable to bet that the market and competition will at some point fix it.” Statutory staffing is also overdue in this country.
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