Nurses not the only ones paying attention to staffing problems

15 Jul
money money money

Could the threat of malpractice spur the fight for better nurse staffing?

When the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the National Institute on Nursing Research released a study on the effects of nurse staffing in NICUs, it was a unique look into how nurse workloads affect non-adult patient outcomes.  The study was conducted by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Ohio State University, Dartmouth College, and the University of Vermont.  Data was collected at 67 Vermont-Oxford Network hospitals on very-low-birthweight (VLBW) babies hospitalized between 2008 and 2009.  Surveys on nurse staffing levels and patient acuity levels were tracked daily.

The result was not surprising.  The researchers say that staffing below national guidelines by just .1 nurse-per-infant led to a shocking 40% increased risk of infection.  Just one-tenth less.   What’s more is the hospitals studies were considered to have excellent nursing care and staffing levels, but even these hospitals were found to be understaffing below national standards by 47 percent in 2008 and 31 percent in 2009.  The sickest babies were understaffed the most.  On a scale of 1 to 5, the sickest category 4 and 5 babies were found to be understaffed 80 percent of the time in 2008 and 68 percent in 2009.  The full study was published in the Journal of Pediatric Medicine and here at MedScape News (sign-up required).

The Illinois Medical Malpractice website picked up on the study too.  What’s interesting is malpractice attorneys cite staffing as not a one-time error, but a “symptomatic” error that’s caused directly by administrator decisions to keep costs down.  That’s a conscious decision that has a direct effect of increasing the chance of infection and possibly long-term care for a patient.  The attorneys write that, “it is absolutely incumbent up all facilities not to prioritize profits over patients in this way.”  link here

What if the threat of malpractice forced hospital administrators to take a closer look at the staffing decisions they make every day?

One Response to “Nurses not the only ones paying attention to staffing problems”

  1. Thom Bastian July 16, 2013 at 11:17 pm #

    Thank you for this article – it’s an eye opener to say the least! I’m still reeling from that 0.1 nurse-per-infant statistic! Hopefully studies like this will help highlight the crucial need for adequate healthcare staffing.

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