Study: Increasing nurse staff, face time with patients, improves healthcare quality

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The study was authored by Jack Needleman, associate professor in the School of Public Health at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), with the help of four other researchers from various universities. The study looked at 799 acute-care hospitals spread over 11 states throughout 2005.
Hospitals might balk at the idea of hiring more nurses, but the costs would not be great, according to the study. Hospitals would likely only see a budget increase of between 0.4 percent to 0.8 percent considering the money that could be saved in handling medical errors and patient visits.
The study is expected to have considerable impact. One organization, the Michigan Nurses Association, plans to use the study's results to push state legislators to support its Safe Patient Care Legislation which was put forward last year.
The Safe Patient Care Legislation would:

  • Place limits on mandatory overtime for nurses;
  • Enforce nurse-to-patient ratios; and
  • Require hospitals to include nurses as decision makers when determining staff levels.

"This study documents yet again that failing to ensure that each RN is assigned an appropriate number of patients directly impacts the quality of care and the life expectancy patients," said Cheryl Johnson, president, Michigan Nurses Association (MNA), in a released statement.

Johnson went on to say that this new study was in direct alignment with MNA's own report which was released in June 2004. That study demonstrated that fewer patients per RN typically results in higher quality of care as reflected by lower patient mortality, fewer complications and fewer mistakes, shorter hospital stays, and higher job satisfaction, as well as less burnout and less staff turnover among registered nurses, the association said.