Friday, April 18, 2014

Nurses' Experience and Teamwork Contribute to Better Patient Care

A new study partially funded through the INQRI program reveals that nurse tenure and good team work improve the quality of hospital care and reduce costs. The research team, led by INQRI grantee Patricia Stone, found that patients received the best care when treated by nurses who have extensive experience in their current job. The study is in the current issue of the American Economics Journal: Applied Economics.

Stone and her team reviewed more than 900,000 patient admissions over four years at Veterans Administration Healthcare System hospitals. It is the largest study of its kind to link nurse staffing to patient outcomes, according to a statement by Columbia University Medical Center. Stone, centennial professor of health policy at Columbia Nursing, and her co-authors analyzed payroll records for individual nurses and medical records for individual patients to examine how changes in nurse staffing impacted length of stay.

"Reducing length of stay is the holy grail of hospital management because it means patients are getting higher quality, more cost-effective care," Stone said in the statement. "When the same team of nurses works together over the years, the nurses develop a rhythm and routines that lead to more efficient care. Hospitals need to keep this in mind when making staffing decisions–disrupting the balance of a team can make quality go down and costs go up."

Stone’s earlier INQRI-funded project: “The Impacts of Nurse Staffing, Skill Mix, and Experience on Quality and Costs in Long-Term Care” examined whether there is a causal relationship between nursing input and patient outcomes in long-term care facilities.

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