High nurse staffing ratios linked with reduced patient mortality: 3 study findings

A recent study published in the online journal BMJ Open suggests higher nurse staffing levels are directly linked to lower patient mortality rates. Although the study was based in the U.K., the findings could have implications for nursing staff ratios in U.S. hospitals as well.

Working on the study were researchers from the University of Southampton in the U.K., King's College London, Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm and the New York University School of Medicine.

The research team examined data from a survey of nearly 3,000 registered U.K. nurses across 46 hospitals and 401 wards. The team focused on two measures: the number of beds per registered nurse, physician and healthcare support workers (including healthcare assistants and auxiliary nurses) and the number of patients per ward nurse.

The study revealed the following:

1. The mortality rate was 20 percent lower in trusts where registered nurses cared for six or fewer patients than those where registered nurses cared for more than 10 patients.

2. Similarly, the inpatient mortality rate was 17 percent lower on surgical wards with higher registered nurse to patient ratios.

3. Hospitals with more physicians per bed also had lower mortality rates but the research team found no evidence that healthcare support workers helped reduce death rates in hospitals.

"This does not, in itself, provide a robust basis to identify safe staffing thresholds but given the overall strength of evidence for an association, we are showing that, in England, the registered nursing workforce is clearly associated with patient safety," said Peter Griffiths PhD, RN, chair of health services research within the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Southampton in the U.K.



More articles on nurses and care quality:
Do Magnet hospitals have better patient outcomes?
Can adding more nurses to hospitals save lives?
5 ways hospitals can combat the 'weekend effect' of longer stays, higher mortality

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