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Are nurses and doctors being exploited?

By: Julie Cullen

By Julie Cullen, Managing Editor, American Nurse Today

Nurses and doctors almost always do the right thing when they’re asked to go above and beyond, even when it means foregoing personal time with their families or their own self-care. They do it because they know if they don’t, their patients’ health may be jeopardized.

The question Dr. Danielle Ofri asks in her recent New York Times opinion piece is whether healthcare organizations take advantage of that knowledge…nurses’ and doctors’ willingness to do more with less…to save money. In other words, are medical professionals being exploited by the business of healthcare?

Ofri notes that medical complexity—patients with more than one severe chronic condition—has increased but the time and staff needed to care for those patients hasn’t. She makes this analogy: “In a factory, if 30% more items were suddenly dropped onto an assembly line, the process would grind to a halt. But in healthcare there is a wondrous elasticity—you can keep adding work and magically it all somehow gets done. The nurse won’t take a lunch break if the unit is short of staff members. The doctor will “squeeze in” the extra patients.”

Recently, though, the World Health Organization noted the serious effects of workplace burnout, which are higher among nurses and doctors than the general population. These medical professionals also commit suicide at higher rates than other professions.

Ofri points out an interesting statistic and solution: Between 1975 and 2010, the number of healthcare administrators increased 3,200%—about 10 administrators for every doctor. What if half of the salaries to pay administrators went to more nurses and doctors? Would that provide enough frontline staff to provide patient care?

Source: The New York Times



  • I feel exploited and hopeless. Why do we allow this, I wish we could fight back together and say no more .

  • Kathy Chelini
    June 12, 2019 11:52 am

    Health Care workers in all areas have a strong sense of duty: to our profession, to our coworkers, to our patients. That inherent desire to serve to the highest level of our ability plays into the hands of those who serve profit and money.

    Nurses have no “value” in healthcare. There is no dollar amount attached to the work we do. We are part of a “bed fee.” We are part of the OR fee. We are added to the cost of a medication or an IV solution or an equipment use. We are a part of the “overhead.” We are a “cost center.” As long as we are seen as a “money pit” or huge deficit, rather than as a “profit generator,” we will never achieve the respect we deserve.

    Are we exploited? To the highest level possible for as long as possible and only until some outside force requires relief: strikes, unions, laws that define staffing ratios, lawsuits that shine a light on the problems, something that endangers the revenue stream.

    The nursing shortage is not getting any better and it won’t until healthcare is changed at its core. I just don’t know how bad the crisis will get before there is change.

  • Michele Gomez
    June 12, 2019 1:36 am

    Just recently I was at work and my admin who does not even carry an active license, was in the supply room attempting to decrease PAR levels of critical supplies, and leaving useless supplies we hardly use. (Myself and central supply guy were present.. to me we are front line staff) when asked WHY I wanted to keep these I told her because at night I didn’t have time to chase after these things. Was she willing to come in and do that for me when the MD’s were frustrated or patients were suffering as a result of this plus decreased staff. COME on.

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