After three days of striking, New York City nurses returned to work after a series of successful negotiations with hospital executives rendered improved staffing ratios for healthcare workers.

While this strike is a success story in achieving more manageable workplace conditions, the issues at hand are not isolated to New York City. Staffing shortages and burnout continue to run rampant among the healthcare sector throughout the nation. It’s putting both nurses and patients at risk.

Three nurses from hospitals across the country sat down with Insider to discuss the current reality of working in healthcare–as nurses are asked to do more with less resources. Christopher Otto, Executive Director of the Delaware Nurses Association, detailed how strained patient-to-nurse staffing ratios force caregivers solely to prioritize keeping patients alive—forcing them to forego any supplemental patient needs that are not deemed necessary, such as extra communication with family members, personal hygiene care, and more.

“I’ve had to say that I really want to be able to stop and talk to you and tell you what’s going on, but…oh, I’ve got to go over here and tend to my other patient or my other patient,” he said.

Minneapolis nurse Kelley Anaas expressed concern over the seemingly endless nature of the nursing shortage. She commented, “what really scares me, is we see the tail end of the Boomer generation retiring and the population itself getting older and is going to be needing more healthcare. There’s not going to be nurses.”

As more workers leave the field, nurses who choose stay are stretched thin in environments fundamentally strained for resources. Sometimes, this results in hospitals mandating night shifts or scheduling nurses for multiple back-to-back days. Nurses need ample rest, as exhaustion has implications beyond a personal inconvenience—in the medical field, minor flaws can be fatal.

Many professionals have suggested that the Joint Commission, which oversees accreditation for over 22,000 US healthcare organizations, implement and mandate specific nurse-to-patient ratios. To meet these standards, hospitals must employ unique methods to garner a robust nursing workforce, capable of meeting the needs of every patient. Foreign-educated nurses offer a clear solution to gaps in care, and these professionals should be utilized by America’s healthcare facilities.

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