Researchers found that increases in the percentage of nurses with baccalaureate degrees were associated with significant reductions in surgical mortality rates and failure-to-rescue rates. They also found that a ten-point increase in a hospital’s percentage of baccalaureate-prepared nurses was associated with an average reduction of 2.12 deaths for every 1,000 patients. (The average reduction was 7.47 deaths per 1,000 patients in the subset of patients with complications.)
These results suggest that if all the hospitals in the study had increased their percentage of baccalaureate nurses by ten points, about 500 deaths might have been prevented. This is an incredibly important finding, given the recommendation made in the Institute of Medicine report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health to increase the number of nurses holding a baccalaureate degree to 80% by the year 2020.
The brief also explains that in addition to improving patient outcomes, higher numbers of baccalaureate-prepared nurses could also lead to an increased number of graduate-level nurses prepared to either become nurse faculty or accept advanced-practice positions in primary care. Aiken found that nurses with initial associate's degrees were less likely than those with an initial baccalaureate degree to earn a master's degree.
This brief is based on the following articles:
- A. Kutney-Lee, D.M. Sloane, L.H. Aiken. An increase in the number of nurses with baccalaureate degrees is linked to lower rates of post-surgery mortality, Health Affairs, March 2013, vol. 32, pp. 579-586;
- L.H. Aiken. Nurses for the future. New England Journal of Medicine, January 20, 2011, vol. 364, pp. 196-198.