Staffing Shortages in Some Neonatal Care Units Endanger Infants

Chicago Neonatal Negligence Attorneys

A study recently published in the Pediatrics edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association indicates that insufficient nurse staffing in neonatal intensive care units is endangering infants.

The study, which was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving healthcare, suggests that the health of infants born prematurely would be particularly enhanced by improved adherence to national staffing guidelines.

These staffing guidelines were developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and affirmed by the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric Nurses and Neonatal Nurses, and they specify a recommended nurse-to-patient ratio of one nurse for every three or four babies, and ratio of more than one nurse per baby for the most complex cases.

The study found that 13.9 percent of the infants in these units are suffering from infections, which could be greatly reduced by adequate hospital staffing. Hospital acquired infections are more common when nurses are serving more patients in a rushed and hurried environment, and they are associated with infant mortality events and as well as longer hospital stays (which further drive up the cost of care).

It is interesting to note that the study examined staffing levels in 67 hospitals within a voluntary network that is dedicated to improving the quality of care for newborns, and thus, the problem may be significantly worse at other hospitals.

On average, the study found that about one third of all neonatal intensive care units were understaffed, and the highest risk infants were even more frequently exposed to nurses working with too many other patients. In fact, 90 percent of all critical “high risk” infants were cared for with inadequate staffing.

Dr. Eileen T. Lake, nursing professor and associate director at the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research at the School of Nursing for the University of Pennsylvania, and Dr. Jeannette A. Rogowski, professor in Health Economics in the School of Public Health at the University of Medicine and Dentistry in New Jersey led the research team.

“Hospitals in this study had better overall nurse staffing than most hospitals with a neonatal intensives care unit in the U.S., and yet, the understaffing levels are striking,” Lake reportedly said.

Staffing levels in neonatal care units are but one of the many issues facing mothers who are expecting adequate care for their newborns.

If your child has suffered an infection or other injury in a neonatal care unit, it may be due to understaffing or many other reasons for which there is a legal remedy. If you just want to speak with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer to see what rights and remedies you might have, please do not hesitate to contact our office at (312) 477-2500. One of our qualified and experienced attorneys can help you determine if and how you might have been harmed by medical malpractice, and what you can do about it. You can also check out our Website for more information about our law firm, Cogan & Power, P.C.