Nurse understaffing linked to higher HAI risk

Nurse understaffing increases the risk of healthcare-associated infections in hospital units, a study published in the Journal of Nursing Administration found.

Understaffing increase workloads for individual nurses, which can ultimately affect infection prevention practices and surveillance activities.

"As they often serve as coordinators within multidisciplinary healthcare teams, nurses play a critical role in preventing HAIs, which is a top priority for improving quality of care and reducing hospital costs," said study lead author Jingjing Shang, PhD, an associate professor at Columbia Nursing.

Researchers from New York City-based Columbia University School of Nursing examined unit-level data from large urban hospital systems between 2007 and 2012. The study included data for more than 100,000 patients.

The study shows 15 percent of patient days had one shift where registered nurses were understaffed, and 6.2 percent of patient days had both day and night shifts where RNs were understaffed.

Researchers found patients in units with RN understaffing at both day and night shifts were 15 percent more likely to develop HAIs on or after the third day, compared to patients in units that were adequately staffed for both shifts.

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