Why Safe Staffing Matters

In Minnesota, hospitals are not required to limit the number of patients a nurse is assigned to at one time. As health care changes, nurses are taking care of more patients than ever before, and many of these patients have complex conditions that require extra care.

For every patient, safe nurse-to-patient ratios are essential. Numerous studies show that when enough nurses are scheduled for duty, patient outcomes improve.

Decreased risk to mortality

Safe nurse-to-patient ratios save lives. In fact, for every one patient increase in a nurse’s workload, there’s an increased patient mortality risk, according to a study in the Lancet.

Reduction in hospital length of stay

When patients receive quality care, they can heal faster. What’s more, a comprehensive review of 17 studies published between 1990 and 2007 found that “significant reductions in cost and length of stay may be possible with higher ratios of nursing personnel in hospital settings. Sufficient numbers of RNs may prevent patient adverse events that cause patients to stay longer than necessary.”

Reduced risk of hospital-acquired infections 

The CDC estimates that 2 million people are infected annually by hospital-acquired infections, resulting in 20,000 preventable deaths every year. Nurses are essential for preventing infection.

recent study found a significant association between patient-to-nurse ratios and surgical site infections. Another found that widespread short staffing in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) was directly associated with an increased risk of infections and concluded that “NICU managers should assess their staffing decisions to devote needed nursing care to critically ill infants.”

Decreased readmissions for adults and children

Children with common conditions treated in hospitals in which nurses care for fewer patients each are significantly less likely to experience readmission between 15 and 30?days after discharge, according to a recent study. “Lower patient-to-nurse ratios hold promise for preventing unnecessary hospital readmissions for children through more effective predischarge monitoring of patient conditions, improved discharge preparation and enhanced quality improvement success,” the study concluded.

In another recent study of 3,000 hospitals, those with higher nurse staffing levels had lower rates of readmissions. According to the researchers: “By focusing on a system factor such as nurse staffing, administrators may be able to address multiple quality issues while reducing their likelihood of penalty for excess readmissions.”

Improved quality care 

Overall, nurse staffing is directly associated with a reduction in medical errors, hospital readmissions, and preventable adverse events such as patient falls, pressure ulcers, central line infections, and patient mortality. “According to researchers: Higher registered nurse staffing was associated with less hospital-related mortality, failure to rescue, cardiac arrest, hospital acquired pneumonia, and other adverse events.”


Patient Story

arlene townsend staffing award

Unsafe staffing costs a Florida facility $1 billion

From Trial Magazine, March 2014 issue: Trial Magazine, 3/11/14 VERDICTS & SETTLEMENTS Arlene Townsend, 63 suffered a stroke and required 24-hour care. She was admitted to Auburndale Oaks Healthcare Center, a nursing home owned by Trans Healthcare, Inc. In the three years leading up to her death, Townsend suffered numerous fall resulting in broken bones and lacerations, infections, significant weight loss, chronic constipation, skin breakdowns, dehydration, and other problems. She is survived by her adult son. Townsend’s estate sued Trans Healthcare, alleging that it had understaffed the nursing home to increase profits and failed to provide adequate care, including protecting Townsend from falls, ensuring a safe environment, and documenting changes to her condition. The court entered a judgment of liability against the defendant, and the…
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