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Study shows increasing nursing staff improves safety and quality in hospitals

A study in the January/February 2006 issue of the journal Health Affairs concludes that increasing the number of registered nurses and hours of nursing care per patient would save 6,700 lives and 4 million days of patient care in hospitals each year.

The research by UCLA's Jack Needleman, Ph.D., and Vanderbilt University School of Nursing's Peter Buerhaus, Ph.D., R.N., also finds that for hospitals that use both RNs and licensed practical nurses (LPNs), greater use of RNs appears to pay for itself in fewer patient deaths, reduced lengths of hospital stay, and decreased rates of hospital-linked complications such as urinary arrest and upper gastrointestinal bleeding.

"All hospitals are feeling pressure to improve quality and contain costs. For hospitals where nurse staffing is low, this study makes an unequivocal business case for using more RNs in nurse staffing and a strong case based on value to patients for increasing the hours of nursing care," says author Jack Needleman, an associate professor at the School of Public Health, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

"We're entering the ninth consecutive year of a national nursing shortage," said co-author Buerhaus, professor and senior associate dean for research at VUSN. "We hope this study stimulates a fresh debate on the contributions of nurses in improving the quality of hospital care."

In 2002, U.S. general hospitals employed 942,000 full time RNs and 120,000 full-time licensed practical nurses. The study simulated the effect of several options that would increase nurse staffing to a "feasible" level for most hospitals. Key findings include:

  • Greater use of RNs translates into fewer patient deaths, reduced hospital stays and decreased rate of hospital-linked complications.
  • Increasing the number of hours of nursing care provided by both RNs and LPNs would result in fewer deaths, avoidable complications and days of care.

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Contact: Kathy Rivers
kathy.rivers@vanderbilt.edu
615-322-3894
Vanderbilt University Medical Center
10-Jan-2006


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