Skip to main content

“Healthcare in Crisis”

"Healthcare in Crisis" is the newest book by Dr. Theresa Morris, Professor of Sociology, that focuses on how one hospital is affected by changes from the Affordable Care Act over a three year period.

By Haley Venglar ’19

Sometimes, even the best ideas carry unintended consequences. Just ask Theresa Morris, professor of sociology and author of the new book, Healthcare in Crisis: Hospitals, Nurses, and the Consequences of Policy Change, which takes an in-depth look at how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) plays out in the obstetrical unit of Fuller Hospital (a pseudonym) in New England.

“I think that as a society, we really need to take some time to think about the differences between not-for-profit and for-profit hospitals,” Morris said. “There is quite a bit of evidence that suggests that for-profit hospitals are typically understaffed…this usually results in a lower quality of healthcare for patients in comparison to not-for-profit hospitals.”

Morris shadowed nurses during the three-year period in which the ACA was implemented and state Medicaid funds to hospitals in the state were slashed, documenting their struggles as they endured pay freezes, hiring freezes, retirement contribution cuts, and understaffing. Also during this time, hospitals, like Fuller Hospital, were increasingly being acquired by a for-profit hospital system–and labor and delivery nurses were caught in the middle. The nurses at Fuller Hospital found themselves grappling with the new bureaucratic procedures while attempting to maintain the high level of patient interaction that is critical for quality care.

In a review for Healthcare in Crisis, author Jennifer Block notes, “Nurses are key here, and policy is driving them away from giving good patient care, in the delivery room and beyond…Too often nurses have been left out of the conversation. Morris puts them in the center.”

Morris said she was inspired to highlight nurses when she was researching her previous book on C-section deliveries. While interviewing doctors, nurses, and midwives, she noticed that the nurses were the ones who knew most of the ins and out of caring for women during labor and birth.

“The hospital that I observed was under a lot of pressure due to a loss of Medicare dollars caused by implantation of programs in the Affordable Care Act, so they were actively seeking another hospital system to acquire it and turn it into a for-profit hospital,” Morris said.

As the title implies, the crisis is in Morris’ book refers to struggles these nurses face due to the ACA, all while trying to maintain a high level of patient care and interaction.

Healthcare in Crisis was published in July 2018 by NYU Press.