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

ly staffed.

The study also found that when nurses' workloads increase because of high patient turnover in individual units, mortality risk also increases. For each shift a patient experienced in which turnover due to admissions, discharges and transfers was substantially higher than usual, the risk of mortality was 4 percent higher. The average patient in the study was exposed to one high-turnover shift.

Study closes door on controversy

Nearly a decade ago, research published by Needleman and his colleagues in the New England Journal of Medicine provided important early evidence that nurse staffing in hospitals was associated with patients' clinical outcomes. This was followed by additional research that reported similar findings using different analytic methods, different data and different measures of patient outcomes associated with hospital nurse staffing.

Despite agreement that nurse staffing does indeed matter to the well-being of patients, earlier findings were challenged because the data used did not allow researchers to directly link staffing to the precise hospital units on which patients stayed or to the nursing shifts to which they were exposed. Nor did earlier studies include information on how staffing decisions were made. In addition, because the earlier studies compared hospitals with high average nurse staffing to hospitals with low staffing, researchers could not control for all the variations across hospitals that might contribute to differences in mortality.

This time, however, by examining a single hospital rather than comparing hospitals, these challenges have been addressed, thus "closing the door on the controversy," said Marcelline Harris, a senior associate consultant in biomedical informatics at the Mayo Clinic and principal investigator of the current study.

"This study, conducted a decade later than our original analysis, addresses the challenges to prior studies
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Contact: Sarah Anderson
sanderson@ph.ucla.edu
310-267-0440
University of California - Los Angeles
Source:Eurekalert

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