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Mental health services may not be the first thing to come to mind when people think about the healthcare industry, but they absolutely play a crucial role in the mental and emotional well-being of public health. Without access to it, many individuals struggle to maintain a sound mental state or overcome psychiatric problems. Unfortunately, this situation has played out for many people during the Covid-19 pandemic, as there aren’t enough healthcare employees around to offer them the care they need.

According to the ECRI, a patient safety organization, the problem that harms the well-being of patients the most is staff shortages in the healthcare industry. The lack of professionals in the field is so damaging that it’s placed above problems that you might think are more serious, like the Coronavirus pandemic itself. A number of positions across the board are in need of assistance, particularly residential behavioral health facilities, but it’s been documented that registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, entry-level security aides, and even psychiatric tech positions are experiencing high vacancy percentages.

You’re probably wondering why mental health staffing shortages have grown to be such a problem in the first place. And what’s made the issue so threatening to the well-being of patient safety? As one might expect, there are many factors at play causing this serious issue. To learn more, here’s an overview of why staffing shortages at mental health centers have happened and how they’re negatively influencing patient care.

Why Are Mental Health Staffing Shortages Happening?

Prior to the pandemic, people had already begun to notice staff shortages in the healthcare industry. Part of the reason is the aging nursing population that was starting to retire after many years of service. The risk of nurse burnout and exhaustion was also present before 2020, but as you can imagine, it grew much worse once the pandemic started.

The fear created by the coronavirus has been a major driving force behind the staff shortages in the healthcare industry. Some hospitals that had a low number of providers have had to ask nurses who had gotten the virus to work, increasing the risk that other employees might catch it too. As such, many nurses have left their old mental health facilities to pursue safer employment options, reducing the amount in the workforce even further.

Another reason why mental health staffing shortages exist is the low pay offered by the role. State-run hospitals don’t always offer a sufficient salary for the position, despite how important it is, leading some nurses to leave for higher-paying jobs elsewhere. 

Fewer Healthcare Employees, Fewer Patients

Because of these understaffed conditions, there aren’t enough nurses to care for the large number of mental health patients that exist. As expected, this has led to a drastically reduced capacity for patients that have made some hospitals turn down admissions altogether. Even if a prospective patient is accepted, they may not receive care immediately. In many cases, they’ll be added to an ever-growing waitlist that could last for several months at a time. 

While this capacity problem has existed for years, it escalated into a crisis during the pandemic. In one state, as low as 10% of the hospital beds in the facility were occupied because there weren’t enough employees. Individuals who have the ability to pay for the services of a private facility also have experienced delays in available treatments. Additionally, people living in jails aren’t receiving the mental health care they need either. Staffing shortages across the board have created a situation where everyone’s access to mental health care has been significantly reduced.

Staff Shortages Are Lowering the Quality of Patient Care

Patients who are fortunate enough to be admitted into mental health facilities experience the consequences of staffing shortages as well. Overworked nurses are tasked with handling more patients than they can handle at once, meaning they can only devote a small amount of time to each one. Because of this scenario, they focus primarily on the minimum level of care, such as providing their medication, causing patients to receive less treatment overall.

Easing the Burden of Mental Health Staffing Shortages

One way of lessening the strain nurses feel from overworked conditions is by making healthcare facility operations easier. How is this possible? Well, one way is by installing technology and software that help with making internal administrative processes more efficient. 

At MedTrainer, we offer a convenient cloud-based program for healthcare organizations to take advantage of, such as incident reporting software and other services. For more information on our healthcare compliance company services, don’t hesitate to call us today. Together, MedTrainer and your staff can make a difference in improving mental health care for those that need it the most.