Patient death risk increases when RN, nursing support staffing is low

Low levels of support staffing for nurses, such as licensed practical nurses and nurse's aides, as well as low registered nurse staffing levels are linked to an increase in patient deaths, according to a study published in BMJ Quality & Safety.

Researchers from the Columbia University School of Nursing in New York City examined data from a three-campus U.S. academic medical center between 2007 and 2012. Staffing levels that were below 75 percent of the annual median unit staffing for each staff category and shift type was characterized as low. In all, researchers studied data for 78,303 adult medical admissions.

During the study period, nearly 30 percent of patients experienced one or more shifts with low RN staffing, and 64 percent experienced one or more shifts with low nursing support staffing. Researchers found that mortality risk increased with exposure to more low-staffed RN shifts and low nursing support staff shifts.

"The results should encourage hospital leadership to assure both adequate RN and nursing support staffing," study authors concluded.

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