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Studies Link Staff Shortages and Patient Outcomes in Nursing Homes

Study after study has shown the direct link between low staffing levels and patient outcomes in hospitals and particularly nursing homes. Time and time again, these studies prove that, “By hiring more nursing staff, nursing home providers can lower their deficiency scores and improve quality.” In reality, many of the largest nursing home chains staff fewer nurses on average than non-profit and government-owned nursing homes, resulting in substandard patient care. According to a study done by Charlene Harrington, RN, PhD, FAAN from UCSF.  “The top 10 chains have a strategy of keeping labor costs low to increase profits.” Harrington continues, saying, “They are not making quality a priority.”  The study found that for-profit nursing homes in order to keep profit margins high, reduce costs by reducing staffing, particularly RN staffing. The reduction in staff can lead to an increase in negligence of patients in the nursing home, which can lead to injury and even death. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality explains in great detail specific ways in which low staffing in hospitals and nursing homes affect negatively impact patient care.

Low staffing levels also leads to nurse fatigue. The American Organization of Nurse Executives released “Sleep-Not Just Beauty Rest” in March of 2013 which found nurse fatigue can not only negatively affect patient outcomes, but also patient and employee satisfaction and operational costs. Because there are so few nurses to go around, many work seemingly impossible hours, including huge amounts of overtime. Effects of overworking a limited nursing staff include:

  • Lapses in thought and attention to detail
  • Increased probability in errors of omission
  • Slowed reaction time

Staff fatigue is has such a major impact on patient care, the American Organization of Nurse Executives has released several similar power points explaining the dangers of staff fatigue and offering solutions to the problem. Click here to learn more. 

With the long term care industry growing larger every day, it is essential to keep such facilities, particularly for-profit nursing homes, accountable for their profit driven actions. Sacrificing patient comfort, care and safety to increase profit margins is dangerous and absolutely unacceptable. 


If your loved one has been severely injured or if you have lost a loved one as a result of what you believe to negligence or substandard care due to short staffing in a nursing home or assisted living facility, please call Ashcraft & Gerel, LLP. Our team of lawyers focus their practice on nursing home litigation, ensuring that you and your family are compensated for this neglect. As one of the nation’s largest plaintiff’s-only law firms, we have the resources and experience necessary to stand up to the largest nursing home chains.  We are here to help, providing nothing but our best legal services. To contact us for a free and confidential consultation, call us at (800) 674-9725 or fill out an online form