gee, ya think?

  1. I ran across this article on my sign-on page for my ISP. It pretty much says what everyone here already knows...

    http://www.nytimes.com/2002/05/30/he...artner=NETZERO


    Shortage of Nurses Hurts Patient Care, Study Finds
    By DENISE GRADY


    n hospitals with low numbers of registered nurses, patients are more likely to suffer complications like urinary infections and pneumonia, to stay in the hospital longer and to die from treatable conditions like shock or gastrointestinal bleeding, researchers report today.

    "I estimate that hundreds or, perhaps, thousands of deaths each year are due to low staffing," said Dr. Jack Needleman, an economist at the Harvard School of Public Health and the lead author of a study on staffing published today in The New England Journal of Medicine.

    The nation has a serious nursing shortage, with 126,000 jobs unfilled, 12 percent of capacity, says the American Hospital Association. The shortage is a result of hospital mergers, layoffs and heavy workloads. Many hospital nurses shifted to other work. The average salary, $46,000 a year, has not increased much in a decade. Even though hospitals are trying to hire again, nurses are no longer available.

    The new study, paid mostly by the government, is one of the largest to look at care in relation to staffing. The findings were based on a computer analysis of the discharge records of more than six million patients at 799 hospitals in 11 states in 1997. Five million had medical problems. One million had surgery.

    The research sought to find out whether there was a correlation between how patients fared and the levels of registered nurses and two other types of workers with less training, licensed practical nurses and aides.

    Registered nurses receive several years of training and usually hold associate's or bachelor's degrees. Practical nurses usually have high school diplomas and a year of training. Aides have less training.

    The researchers found that for certain aspects of care just nurses made a difference. In hospitals with higher nurse staffing, stays were 3 to 5 percent shorter, and complication rates 2 to 9 percent lower than in hospitals with lower staffing. No relation was found between patients' well-being or length of stay and the levels of aides or practical nurses.

    Registered nurses, Dr. Needleman said, are "the eyes and ears of the hospital" for judging whether a patient is recovering normally.

    "If something is going wrong," he said, "they can catch the signs early, before the problem gets worse."

    But problems cannot be spotted early, he added, if nurses do not have time to observe their patients.

    The president of the American Nurses Association, Mary E. Foley, said, "We're very pleased that another large set of research data has validated what the American Nurses Association has been saying since the mid-90's, that there is a direct effect on the outcome of patient care when you have enough nurses."

    As an example, Ms. Foley said, pneumonia and blood clots in hospitalized patients often result from immobility, and nurses help prevent such complications by turning and repositioning bedridden patients, encouraging them to exercise and cough and helping others to get up and walk around. Even if nurses themselves do not do those things for patients, they have the training and experience to know when such help is needed and to ensure it is provided.

    A senior vice president for policy at the American Hospital Association, Carmela Coyle, said: "The study suggests that registered nurses are key and critical to insuring good patient care. This is something that hospitals and patients have known for some time."

    Ms. Coyle said she feared that the study would lead some people to assume that health care problems could be solved by laws that require specific staffing ratios, a move that hospital trade groups have long resisted. She called such a reaction overly simplistic.

    "What you really need to look at," Ms. Coyle said, "is much more than the number of nurses and the number of patients. How many of the nurses have 20 years of experience or more, and how many are right out of school? What technology is there to support them? How sick are the patients?"

    Dr. Needleman said his group made its study because the government sought to fill a large research gap on the connection between nurse staffing and quality of care. In the early 1990's, nurses testified to Congress that patients in some hospitals were endangered by managed-care companies that were trying to save money by replacing registered nurses with less skilled and lower paid workers. Congress asked the Institute of Medicine to study the issue. In a report in 1996, the institute said there was not enough data to draw conclusions and called on the government to finance studies.

    Dr. Needleman's is one of those. It measured staffing two ways, by the proportion of nursing hours provided by each type of worker and by the number of hours a day the types of workers devoted to each patient.

    For registered nurses, the average number of hours a day per patient worked out to eight. The hours included not only time spent at the bedside, but also time spent preparing medication, writing chart reports and consulting colleagues or family members.

    The averages include intensive care units, with one nurse for every one or two patients around the clock.

    "There were some hospitals, that if I were going to them as a patient, I would be very concerned," Dr. Needleman said. "The hospitals at the very low end of our sample had as little as two hours, and some at the high end had 16 hours."

    When the study compared the hospitals in the top quarter with those in the bottom quarter on the proportion of nursing time from registered nurses, it found that the medical patients, as opposed to surgical patients, in the bottom quarter had stays 3.5 percent longer, 9 percent more urinary infections, 5.1 percent more gastrointestinal bleeding, 6.4 percent more pneumonia and 9.4 percent more shock or cardiac arrest.

    In addition, the death rate was 2.5 percent higher for "failure to rescue," meaning that the patients died from conditions that might have been reversed if they had been treated in time. Those conditions include pneumonia, shock or cardiac arrest, upper gastrointestinal bleeding, sepsis or a blood clot.
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  2. 12 Comments

  3. by   Cascadians
    What an outlandish concept!
    Lack of caregivers impacts care ?

    Impossible! Needs 20,000 more studies ...
  4. by   angelac1978
    Ms. Coyle said she feared that the study would lead some people to assume that health care problems could be solved by laws that require specific staffing ratios, a move that hospital trade groups have long resisted. She called such a reaction overly simplistic

    Safe staffing ratios certainly wouldn't hurt, IMO
  5. by   eltrip
    WOW, What an epiphany! Who woulda thunk it?
  6. by   oramar
    why had studies like this not been done years ago?
  7. by   SmilingBluEyes
    Which brainiac will get rich NEXT on some stupid-a$$ study that re-states the OBVIOUS! ENUF studies, time now is to ACT!!!! Sheesh......
  8. by   P_RN
    Well DUH
  9. by   LasVegasRN
    Originally posted by P_RN
    Well DUH
    :chuckle Could not have said that better myself!
  10. by   live4today
    originally posted by smilingblueyes
    which brainiac will get rich next on some stupid-a$$ study that re-states the obvious! enuf studies, time now is to act!!!! sheesh......

    and a big ol' amen to that, smilingblueyes!!! :hatparty:
  11. by   thisnurse
    i heard this on the news last night...yes it made NEWS...apparently this is NEWS.
  12. by   fedupnurse
    Sounds like wher I work. You bring up a problem, serious or minor, and it goes to a committee. The to a subcommittee of the committee. Before you know it, it is like a 8th cousin removed 88 times! As said above, it's time the politicians, suits, etc. stop studying and start acting APPROPRIATELY! We need more publicity like this though, to make the public more aware. We also need to mpublish the salaries of every healthcare executive from administrative supervisor to CEO including PERKS. Throw in the financial info on Insurance CO execs too. You want to see a public outcry, that might just do it!
  13. by   SmilingBluEyes
    I wholehearted agree Nancy...let em see what it is all about. Course that would happen in the PERFECT world....but in OUR world, not likely (sigh)...too bad, we got to toot our own horn to get ANY light shed on the very critical subject of nursing shortages. It is indeed frightening.
  14. by   mother/babyRN
    Wonder how many big bucks was spent on THAT particular enlightening study while people cried, fried and died due to lack of appropriate care....You gotta love management......

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