The Consequences of Inadequate Staffing in Delivery Rooms

The Consequences of Inadequate Staffing in Delivery Rooms

by / Wednesday, 15 December 2021 / Published in Birth Trauma, Medical Malpractice
A newborn baby laying in a bed.

It’s no secret that many industries are experiencing a labor shortage in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. You might have turned on the news recently and seen a story about how restaurants are having a hard time finding new employees. Or maybe it was a story about how school bus drivers are in short supply. But another industry that’s having a hard time maintaining adequate staffing is healthcare.

Even before the pandemic, inadequate staffing was a very common problem in hospitals and the reason behind it is really tragic — hospitals just didn’t think that it was cost effective to maintain adequate staffing levels. But the simple fact of the matter is that when nurses have too many patients to care for, the more likely it is that mistakes will be made. It’s more likely that nurses will miss warning signs of problems and that patients won’t receive timely care because staff resources are limited. One study published by The Lancet in 2014 found that for every additional patient a nurse cares for, the risk of a patient dying in that hospital increases by 7%. 

The coronavirus pandemic has made understaffing an even more serious problem. Throughout the United States, there have been cases of hospitals having to scale back their maternity services in response to staffing shortages. In August 2021, a hospital in Texas had to limit its labor and delivery services to Monday-Thursday until more nurses could be hired. If patients went into labor outside of that time, they would be diverted to another hospital 60 miles away unless it was an absolute emergency. In September 2021, another hospital in New York announced they would pause delivering babies all together because of a staffing shortage.

Giving birth isn’t easy, even under the best of circumstances. There’s a chance that complications could come up during labor and delivery, even if the pregnancy has been healthy and uncomplicated. If someone goes into labor and has to head to a hospital many miles away from where they had planned to give birth because of a staffing shortage, the more likely it is that they will give birth along the way or complications won’t be addressed in a timely manner, which can make it more likely that a child will sustain birth trauma. Or if nurses are overworked and trying to care for too many patients at a given time, they could miss a warning sign of a baby being in distress.

The effects of inadequate staffing in delivery rooms can continue even after the baby is born. Sometimes, giving birth can be a real ordeal and it can potentially lead to PTSD in the mother. In a 2019 article from the BBC, Elizabeth Ford of Queen Mary University of London and Susan Ayers of the University of Sussex are quoted as saying, “Women who feel lack of control or who have poor care and support are more at risk of developing PTSD.” When maternity wards are understaffed, it’s more likely that nurses and doctors on duty will be overworked and unable to provide new mothers with the valuable support and information they need after delivery. 

Contact a Michigan Birth Trauma Lawyer

Adequate staffing is a critical part of quality care. If you or your child has been harmed as a result of poor staffing levels during your labor and delivery, don’t hesitate to contact a birth trauma lawyer. The simple fact of the matter is that birth trauma often is medical malpractice and medical malpractice cases can be very complex. You need a lawyer on your side who knows the law and can fight to get justice for you. 

At Goodwin & Scieszka, you’ll be able to get help from a Michigan-based lawyer experienced in both birth trauma and medical malpractice cases. Contact us today to find out how we can help. Even if your child is a few years old and you’re just starting to see signs of birth trauma, you may still have options.

Image: iStock / Orbon Alija

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