Thursday, November 4, 2010

Nurse Understaffing Leads to Failures in Patient Safety

This week, the largest nurses union in the U.S. asked the Washington, D.C. Health Department to investigate nurse understaffing at Washington Hospital Center. The union believes that this understaffing is jeopardizing patient care.

Click here to read Lena Sun's article in The Washington Post.

INQRI researchers at the University of California know that the composition of hospital nurses matter when it comes to preventing costly complications for patients.  Led by Mary Blegen and Tom Vaughn, the team examined the extent to which nurse staffing levels affected the incidence of complications and the failure to rescue from those complications, (i.e. death following complications). Their examination showed that nursing hours per patient day were strongly associated with lower rates of pressure ulcers and hospital acquired infections, and fewer deaths from complications. Further, more RN hours in the mix had additional benefit with still lower rates of failure to rescue and hospital acquired infections. Their work shows that higher levels of nursing hours per patient day and RN skill mix in intensive care units and in general units will lead to better patient outcomes, information that can guide states considering regulation of nurse-patient staffing ratios to address patient safety gaps.

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