With the economic crisis affecting the healthcare arena, hospitals large and small must tighten the budgetary belt. This difficult task weighs heavily on hospital CEOs across the nation. Should leadership positions be eliminated? Should nursing FTE's be cut?
Historically, one of the first hospital departments to experience the crunch is the nursing education department. Reimbursement for seminars and out-of-facility education is an easy expense to eliminate and monies once budgeted for training are frozen. With a short-term perspective, it's easy to believe these cuts will have little effect on hospital operations and those currently employed within the facility, but unfortunately, this is a false assumption.
The future of ongoing improvement in quality healthcare has a strong dependency on life-long learning that is hosted and encouraged by staff development departments and their educators across the country. It is a Joint Commission requirement that the competency of all clinicians be validated at least once per year, but without needed equipment and budgeted salaries for qualified practitioners to validate competency, that mandate cannot be met.
Each day there are evidence-based changes and updated techniques surfacing as the result of clinical research and testing of best practices around the world. Communicating these changes and teaching new techniques to clinical staff in healthcare facilities is the responsibility of staff development professionals and clinical educators. Positive patient outcomes rely directly on the skills and knowledge of the clinicians caring for them.
During the past year, several sentinel events and near misses have been reported related to the administration of Heparin. As a result, safety measures have been created and implemented in healthcare facilities around the world, such as a double check system in which two clinicians independently calculate the dosage of Heparin and then compare the calculated dose, and a tighter control of the anticoagulant by the hospital pharmacy. The need for clinician education and post-education validation was mandatory. Without this education, future critical events and deaths are likely to occur.
The Joint Commission defines negligence as a “failure to use such care as a reasonably prudent and careful person would use under similar circumstances.” The cost of nursing negligence by far outweighs the savings that staff development budget crunching results in, let alone dangers to our patients from medical errors caused by incompetent clinicians.
In light of these concerns, too stringent cuts from the staff development department's budget during economic hardship should be a warning sign. Consideration must be given to future costly litigation fees as a result of substandard care and the difficulty of launching new quality improvement initiatives without educated staff development professionals to oversee them.
Deanna R. Miller, RN, MSN/HCE, is the manager of critical care and staff development at University Hospitals Geneva Medical Center in Geneva, OH.
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