Survey: Adding One Nurse Greatly Reduces Hospital-Related Deaths

A recent University of Minnesota School of Public Health survey has researchers convinced that adding one more full-time registered nurse to hospital staffs would significantly decrease the number of hospital-related deaths in the United States.

Set to appear in the December issue of the journal Medical Care, the review's results show that by increasing the number of full-time RNs on staff per day by one, there were 9 percent fewer hospital-related deaths in intensive care units, 16 percent fewer in surgical patients, and 6 percent fewer deaths in medical patients.

Twenty-seven studies of patient outcomes were evaluated to determine their relation to the registered nurse-to-patient ratio and to examine whether there was a link to the health outcome of the patients. Per shift, RN staffing averaged about three patients per RN in intensive care units, four patients per RN on surgical units, and four patients per RN for medical patients. Registered nurse staffing ratios came from the American Hospital Association and other nursing surveys.

For every 1,000 hospitalized patients, the reviewers estimated that an increase by one full-time RN per patient day could save five patient lives in intensive care units, five lives on medical floors, and six surgical patient lives.

Additionally, increasing staffing by one RN per patient day resulted in lower rates of hospital-acquired pneumonia, respiratory failure, and cardiac arrest in intensive care units. Patients' length of stay in the hospital was also shorter by 34 percent in intensive care units and by 31 percent in surgical units.

When asked how hospital administrators can be better made aware of these possible rates of improved patient outcomes, lead review author Robert Kane, M.D., said, "The issue is not making them aware of the possibility, it's convincing them that it is in their best interests to act on it. From a business perspective, the savings in reduced lengths of stay would not offset the costs of the added staffing. The case would have to be made in terms of image and liability."

For more information, visit www.lww-medicalcare.com.

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