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Longer nurse tenure on hospital units leads to higher quality care
Date:4/14/2014

(NEW YORK, NY, April 14, 2014) When it comes to the cost and quality of hospital care, nurse tenure and teamwork matters. Patients get the best care when they are treated in units that are staffed by nurses who have extensive experience in their current job, according to a study from researchers at Columbia University School of Nursing and Columbia Business School. The study was published in the current issue of the American Economics Journal: Applied Economics.

The review of more than 900,000 patient admissions over four years at hospitals in the Veterans Administration Healthcare System is the largest study of its kind to link nurse staffing to patient outcomes. The researchers analyzed payroll records for each nurse and medical records for each patient to see how changes in nurse staffing impacted the length of stay for patients. Because length of stay is increased by delays in delivery of appropriate care and errors in care delivery, a shorter length of stay indicates that the hospital provided better treatment. At the same time, a shorter length of stay also makes care more cost-effective. The study found that a one-year increase in the average tenure of RNs on a hospital unit was associated with a 1.3 percent decrease in length of stay.

"Reducing length of stay is the holy grail of hospital management because it means patients are getting higher quality, more cost-effective care," says senior study author Patricia Stone, PhD, RN, FAAN, Centennial Professor of Health Policy at Columbia Nursing. "When the same team of nurses works together over the years, the nurses develop a rhythm and routines that lead to more efficient care. Hospitals need to keep this in mind when making staffing decisions disrupting the balance of a team can make quality go down and costs go up."

While many hospitals rely on temporary staffing agencies at least some of the time to fill RN vacancies, the study found that it's more cost-effect
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Contact: Lisa Rapaport
lr2692@cumc.columbia.edu
212-342-3795
Columbia University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert  

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