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"Did I kill anyone today?" ED nurse sounds alarm on short-staffing in Newsweek

February 2, 2004 -- This week Newsweek's "My Turn" column was a powerful piece by Michigan ED nurse Paul Duke about how short-staffing frequently has him "praying like mad that I didn't make any mistakes that hurt anyone."

Duke, who has worked in a number of different ED's in Michigan, describes how his patient loads have increased to dangerous levels, from four or five patients five years ago to about 10-12 today. He reports serious short-staffing everywhere he has worked in the last few years. In that environment, nurses are "tired and beaten down." Duke cites statistics showing that in recent years ED visits have increased but the number of ED's has decreased. He also includes figures on the overall nursing shortage, particularly the aging nurse population, and the expected increase in demand associated with the aging patient population. Duke vows to continue with the profession he loves despite feeling "steamrolled," but his piece makes clear why many burned out bedside nurses would choose to take their talents elsewhere.

See Paul Duke's "If ER Nurses Crash, Will Patients Follow?" in Newsweek.

Also see Pam Meredith's editorial in Nursing Spectrum on a letter written to the Newsweek editor by a medical resident who was critical of his nursing colleagues.





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