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Patient care is deteriorating in the ward setting as nurses are often overworked in their daily jobs This is due to understaffing long hours and high stress thus results in errors of nursing care and ultimately compromises a patients health Some associated hazards and how they are identified and managed are looked at These include medication errors poor manual handling techniques critical points of care being skipped over or missed completely short cuts in procedures and many other malpractices Each of these factors are daily occurrences in some facilities Clearly the issue of the overworked nurse needs to be addressed as it is a potential hazard to both patient and nurse As a general overview of the issue nurses are being forced into overworking due to understaffing We now have a situation where many of our public hospitals are attempting to operate with between 10-25 per cent less nursing staff than required James 2002 p5 This increases the workload causes high stress levels and low productivity creating a poor working environment and atmosphere Studies show that nursing shortages contribute to a greater patient risk of infection bleeding and heart and lung failure Anstett 2003 p15 For example a set of tasks may be given to a nurse to be completed in a certain achievable time frame However if a task takes longer then usual for any reason the nurse may attempt to save time to complete hisher tasks by rushing skipping parts of care or not following correct procedures Overworked nurses are contributing to substantial numbers of preventable medical errors in hospitals Anstett 2003 p1 A risk assessment of the hazard of the overworked nurse is an essential element of identifying the problem and must occur before management strategies are implemented The assessment would have to include such things as why the hazard exists what the risk is who is at risk why the nurse is a risk when the nurse is a
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