Falls and infections are more common among patients admitted to hospitals on weekends, according to a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Southern California and published in the British Medical Journal. The research team analyzed data from more than 350 million hospital admissions from 2002 to 2010. Even though the vast majority (81 percent) of the admissions were on weekdays, there were more complications in patients admitted on weekends (5.7 percent of complications compared with 3.7 percent for patients admitted on week days). The most common kinds of hospital-acquired infections among patients admitted on weekends were pressure ulcers and catheter-associated urinary tract infections.
The research team could not determine whether the higher proportion of complications were due to lower staffing rates on weekends or patients with more urgent treatment needs being admitted during those times.
These findings are consistent with a body of research showing that patients admitted during off-peak hours (like evenings and weekends) experienced more health problems, and were less likely to survive in-hospital cardiac arrest, and that newborns born on weekends were more likely to die than babies born during the week.
An INQRI-funded study led by Patti Hamilton and Gretchen Gemeinhardt found that nurses’ “off-peak” work environments play a significant role in the increased patient mortality during these time periods. In particular, the researchers found that nurses who participate in hospital plans that allow them to work only weekend shifts for full pay and benefits are less familiar with their institutions’ initiatives and priorities that govern policies, procedures, principles and regulations for providing care, because those initiatives and priorities are stressed more during peak periods.