A new study recently published in the International Journal of Nursing Studies found that hospitals with a low number of registered nurses on staff have a higher rate of patient mortalities. The international study was conducted by researchers at the University of Southampton, who also analyzed data from a previous RN4CAST study that included hospitals in nine European countries.
The study confirmed the long-suspected link that a shortage of nursing staff in hospitals increases patient mortality. Basically, a shortage of nurses on staff results in an increase of nursing tasks left undone. Patients suffer the negative and often deadly effects of these incidents. In fact, researchers found that there is a 16 percent increase in the incidence of fatality among post-surgical patients for every 10 percent of nursing duties left undone.
Nurses Play an Important Role in Patient Care, Education
Critical patient care provided by skilled nurses includes monitoring of patient vital signs, administration of medication, effective pain management, infection control, and communicating with doctors to avoid small problems from becoming serious or even deadly problems. Nurses educate patients on how to manage their medical needs and conditions at home before they leave the hospital so that they can avoid complications that may require readmission. When these tasks are left undone due to the shortage of nurses on staff, patient mortality increases.
The University of Southampton also studied the effect that nurse qualifications had on patient mortality. Researchers found that the higher the level of nursing degree and training, the lower the incidence of patient mortality. The study concluded that quality nursing care depended heavily on the degree of training and education the nursing staff had as well as the number of degreed nurses on staff at the hospital. Hospitals that tried to replace RNs with less qualified medical personnel had a higher rate of patient mortality.
Registered nurses spend a great deal of time advocating for their patients by discussing their care personally with doctors, negotiating with insurance companies, and advocating for home care or extended rehabilitation services when needed. When there is a shortage of nurses on staff in a hospital, these services are often the first to be eliminated because of the high nurse to patient ratio. When patients are discharged without proper training or education, their risk of fatality increases.
International researchers involved in the study agreed that their findings are crucial for healthcare administrators and policymakers. By documenting and analyzing incidences of missed care and patient outcomes, hospitals can identify areas in need of more qualified nursing and make staffing changes to improve patient outcomes.
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