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Risk of hospital patient mortality increases with nurse staffing shortfalls, study finds
Date:3/17/2011

Nurses are the front-line caregivers to hospital patients, coordinating and providing direct care and delivering it safely and reliably. The goal for any hospital is to ensure that each of its patient-care units has an adequate number of nurses during every shift.

Ideally, the proper number of hours nurses work known as the "target level" should be adjusted each shift, depending on the ebb and flow of patients and their need for care. Too many nurses can be costly for hospitals; too few can put patients' health in danger.

In a new study, a team of researchers from the UCLA School of Public Health, Mayo Clinic and Vanderbilt University has determined that patients' mortality risk rises as the number of below-target nursing shifts they are exposed to increases. The study also found that when nurses' workloads increase during shifts because of high patient turnover, mortality risk also increases.

The findings appear in the March 17 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.

For the study, first author Jack Needleman, a professor of health services at UCLA's School of Public Health, and his colleagues analyzed the records of nearly 198,000 admitted patients and 177,000 eight-hour nursing shifts across 43 patient-care units at a large tertiary academic medical center in the U.S.

As part of their comprehensive analysis, the researchers calculated the difference between the target nurse-staffing level and the actual nurse-staffing level for each shift they examined.

The researchers found that for each shift patients were exposed to that was substantially understaffed falling eight or more hours below the target level patients' overall mortality risk increased by 2 percent. Because the average patient in the study was exposed to three nursing shifts that fell below target levels, the mortality risk for these patients was about 6 percent higher than for patients on units that were always ful
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Contact: Sarah Anderson
sanderson@ph.ucla.edu
310-267-0440
University of California - Los Angeles
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2 3

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