Nurse staffing levels directly impact patient health and survival

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Low levels put patients at risk for life-threatening infections, shock and bleeding

Researchers who looked at hospital discharge data for more than 5 million patients found consistent relationships between nurse staffing levels and five adverse patient outcomes: urinary tract infections, pneumonia, shock, upper gastrointestinal bleeding and length of hospital stay in medical and major surgery patients. Jack Needleman of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston and Peter Buerhaus of Vanderbilt University’s School of Nursing in Nashville, Tenn., also found higher registered nurse (RN) staffing was associated with a 3 to 12 percent reduction in certain adverse outcomes and higher staffing at all levels of nursing was associated with a 2 to 25 percent reduction in adverse outcomes. Clearly, the researchers found, low levels of staffing put patients at risk for life-threatening medical complications.