Magazine article The Nation's Health

Study: Nurse Staffing, Education Levels Can Affect Patient Safety

Magazine article The Nation's Health

Study: Nurse Staffing, Education Levels Can Affect Patient Safety

Article excerpt

PUTTING heavy workloads on nurses and neglecting to emphasize education in hiring could be hurting hospital patients.

A multi-nation study published online in The Lancet on Feb. 25 found nursing staff levels and education had strong impacts on the likelihood of patients dying within 30 days of being admitted to the hospital. The study was based on patient outcomes associated with nurse staffing and education in nine countries.

Researchers reviewed the hospital discharge data of more than 420,000 patients who underwent common surgeries such as knee or hip replacement, appendectomy and gall bladder surgery. They also surveyed more than 26,500 nurses about their patient workload and education levels.

The study's authors estimated that each additional patient in a hospital nurse's workload increased the likelihood of a patient dying within 30 days of admission by 7 percent. And nurse education affected outcomes as well. For every 10 percent increase in nurses with bachelor's degrees, the study found a 7 percent drop in the likelihood of patient death.

Cynthia Stone, DrPH, RN, chair of APHA's Public Health Nursing Section, told The Nation's Health that she agreed with the study's recommendation on increasing levels of nursing education among hospital staff and keeping nurse-to-patient ratios low.

"We are starting to see in Indiana where nursing staff have been cut that patient outcomes are decreasing," Stone said.

The study estimated that the likelihood of patients dying was nearly a third lower in hospitals where 60 percent of nurses had bachelor's degrees and cared for an average of six patients when compared to those where only 30 percent of nurses had a bachelor's degree and cared for an average of eight patients. …

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