Column: Workers' Comp

Nurses Provide Frontline Care

By: | August 31, 2016 • 2 min read

Roberto Ceniceros is senior editor at Risk & Insurance® and chair of the National Workers' Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo. He can be reached at [email protected] Read more of his columns and features.

Discussions about physician performance and its impact on claims is a frequent workers’ compensation topic. But spend time around a hospital and you witness nurses providing more of the frontline care and comfort. They interact with patients more than doctors.

Yet I have rarely heard workers’ compensation observers discuss current nursing-profession challenges. That contrasts with the attention paid to selecting treating physicians, discussions on a doctor shortage impacting claims outcomes, physician pay and so on.

Sure, doctors make treatment decisions that largely determine how injured workers mend and recover. But the level of care and compassion hospital nurses provide also impacts an injured worker’s overall experience.

As it goes with all employees, there are always a few not suited for the job. Fortunately, there are many different roles for them.

That experience shapes their attitudes about their medical recovery. It also affects their views on returning to the job and whether they should call the attorney 1-800 numbers pitched on TV commercials.

Most nurses I’ve encountered in hospitals exhibit great care about their roles and their patients. They are competent professionals.

As it goes with all employees, there are always a few not suited for the job. Fortunately, there are many different roles for them.

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You have noticed, for example, the growing number of nurses employed by the insurance industry. Some of those roles still require patient empathy, while others are more administrative, analytical or company leadership positions not requiring direct patient care.

While most hospital nurses I’ve encountered bring their compassion and professional acumen to the job every day, many are leaving the profession.

Some are retiring baby boomers. Others are leaving because of the stress of too large a patient load. A nationwide R.N. shortage and hospital systems attempting to control labor costs can strain their abilities.

Nursing burnout is a much studied and written about topic. It’s a point of contention in nurse labor union disputes with hospitals and it’s evident when talking to nurses.

The challenge is evident in other ways.

Only 168 out of 3,544 hospitals received a five-star rating while more than 600 received one or two stars in a recent, albeit controversial, U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services survey of patient satisfaction with hospitals.

The nationwide survey asked about communication with nurses and the responsiveness of hospital staff.

Perhaps this means it’s time for workers’ comp claims payers to expand the discussion about the people caring for injured workers.

Personally, when I accompany friends or family to a hospital I make sure that the caring and compassionate nurses I see get my appreciation. &

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]