December 29, 2008

More nurses, fewer patient complications

Scrimping on nurses is ill advised because as staffing increases, patients' risk of complications and time spent in hospitals drop, a U.S. review found.

The reviewers culled findings from 28 studies that analyzed the relationship between higher registered nurse staffing and several patient outcomes: reduced hospital-based mortality, hospital-acquired pneumonia, failure to rescue, nosocomial bloodstream infections and length of stay.

The nursing-funded findings demonstrate that as nursing staffing levels rise, patient risk of complications and hospital length of stay decrease, resulting in medical costs savings, improved national productivity and lives saved, officials at the American Nurses Association said.

Estimates from this study suggest that adding 133,000 registered nurses to the acute care hospital workforce would save 5,900 lives per year, Rebecca M. Patton, president of the American Nursing Association, said in a statement.

The additional nurse staffing would decrease hospital days by 3.6 million. More rapid recovery translates into increased national productivity, conservatively estimated at $231 million per year.