I’m not going to write this from a research perspective, quoting percentages based on recent studies. I’ve discovered that nowadays you can find causative information to suit your opinion, whatever that may be, based on a plethora of info readily available to anyone well-versed at Google. So instead I’m just going to speak my thoughts from experience. My personal experience as a Registered Nurse in the ICU setting.
So recently I looked over at a physician I have worked closely with for over half a decade and asked, “do you think as a whole the patients are getting sicker?”
It didn’t take him long to agree emphatically, “they sure are!”
I’ve been in the healthcare field for roughly 21 years, and I’ve been a critical care nurse for the last 14 or so. As long as I’ve been a nurse there’s been plenty of “business” to keep us busy, but I’ve seen a big shift in just the last one to two years. It seems like our patient population is becoming more and more critical. The patients are getting sicker. Where you used to have “slow” days occasionally, now that never happens. I can recall getting a high number of people in the ICU who perhaps didn’t require close monitoring, or maybe they weren’t as ill as they initially presented in the ER. They were easily stabilized, and not much blew my skirt up. That’s changing.
Over the last year, it’s become abundantly clear. I can pretty much bet that when I come in I’m going to run my legs off, my adrenaline is going to be pumping the entire shift, and we’ll probably code someone at some point. I’m seeing sicker and sicker people, of all races and ages, and the older I get the younger my patients are getting. It’s not uncommon for me to see multiple patients in their thirties in a week’s time, and these are hospitalizations not brought on by simply trauma like you may think.
So what’s causing the shift? My first thought was the baby boomers. They’re getting older, and now the largest portion of the population is getting sick and hospitalized. They were warning of this back when I was in nursing school, and it’s certainly come to pass. So, yeah, I think that’s a large contributor, but I don’t believe it ends there.
I feel like we’ve certainly gotten better at what we do in the healthcare field, and people that would have died 25 years ago are now living longer to be a patient another day. Our technology and knowledgeable skills are definitely keeping people alive much longer, leading to a higher acuity population as years go by, but also the rising cost of healthcare and health insurance keeps many people from utilizing preventative care. This means many people’s first experience with healthcare is when they end up emergently in my unit. Sad, but true.