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Patients Complain about Overworked Doctors and Nurses


Posted on Jun 07, 2012

NPR recently ran related stories on doctors and nurses who can't seem to find enough time for their patients.

 

One poll found that 3 in 5 patients believe their doctors rush through examinations.

 

The time a doctor spends with the patient is important. Dr. Larry Shore of My Health Medical Group in San Francisco says that, with low primary care reimbursements, doctors are incentivized to rush through and visit 3-5 patients per hour. Thus, the average doctor gives  a patient 12 to 15 seconds before interrupting. They simply don't have the time to listen to the full story, even though they should.

 

For this reason, Dr. Shore has recently opened his own practice with mechanisms, like a broader staff, designed to give greater attention to patients. For example, his appointments are five minutes longer than the average 15 minutes.

 

The other poll found that 34% of patients hospitalized over the last year claimed their nurses were unavailable or slow to respond when needed.

 

NPR asked many nurses for thoughts. Their collective response was to complain about overwhelming duties. One nurse thinks she should be dealing with three patients in the ER, but is usually dealing with five to eight. Characteristically, most declined an interview, citing concerns about leaving their patients for too long.

 

According to Professor Linda Aiken of the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, although more nurses are graduating, tightening hospital budgets can handle fewer of them. This is a hospital care problem, she says, because "nurses are the surveillance system in hospitals."

 

Both polls were conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Harvard School of Public Health.

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