ICUs in 75 countries show nurse staffing levels matter to patient safety

From MedPage Today:

A high nurse-to-patient ratio in intensive care units is associated with a lower risk of in-hospital death, according to results from a study involving more than a thousand ICUs in 75 countries.

“The study reinforces the importance of having good staffing, especially in the ICU where you have your most critically ill patients,” researcher Ruth Kleinpell told MedPage Today.

The researchers cited time constraints due to hospital understaffing for the increase in mistakes and mortality rates. “Time constraints related to a reduced nurse-to-patient ratio may increase the likelihood of mistakes by creating a stressful environment with distractions and interruptions that adversely affect quality of care,” they wrote in the journal article.

Numerous recent studies have linked higher nurse-to-patient ratios with better health outcomes in hospitals. A study released in November found that increases in nurse staffing levels improves quality of care, reduces adverse events, and decreases length of hospital stay.Pregnant woman in hospital

This most recent study of ICUs across the world comes at a critical juncture as nurses nationwide say hospitals are putting profits above patient safety. When hospitals cut corners on staffing, nurses say they don’t have the time to give patients the safe and quality care they deserve, which can result in medical mistakes, complications, and readmissions.

In Minnesota, nurses raised serious concerns about staffing issues and patient safety, prompting Governor Dayton to sign the Staffing Plan Disclosure Act, designed to study the effects of nurse staffing on patient outcomes. Of the 40 hospitals selected to participate in the legally mandated study, only one returned data, which showed that poor staffing levels are correlated with patient mortality, failures to rescue, and patient falls in Minnesota hospitals.

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