Understaffing of Registered Nurses Leads to Higher Patient Death Rates

  1. NYSNA Releases Poll:

    Overwhelming Public Demand for Governor and Legislature to Set Safe Patient-to-Nurse Ratios to Ensure Public Safety
    Understaffing of Registered Nurses Leads to Higher Patient Death Rates in Hospitals

    Albany, N.Y., March 10, 2003-More than 300 Registered Nurses, members of the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), converged on Albany today to lobby for patient safety in hospitals and nursing homes. They called on the Legislature to ensure quality patient care by setting safe patient-to-RN staffing ratios.

    A February 2003 Zogby International poll commissioned by NYSNA found that 82% of likely New York voters agree that the number of Registered Nurses on duty in a hospital is directly related to the quality of patient care. There was overwhelming agreement in all sub-groups, with the strongest support among college graduates and Jewish voters.

    An overwhelming 82% of those surveyed believe that it is New York State's responsibility to establish safe patient-to-nurse ratios. The strongest supporters of state action on this issue included 90% of the suburban voters polled, the 18-24 age group, African Americans, and working women.

    "It's really a matter of life and death," said Barbara Crane, chair of NYSNA's Delegate Assembly and an intensive care unit nurse for more than 20 years at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown, N.Y. "The more Registered Nurses on staff in hospitals and nursing homes, the less likely patients are to die and the better they fare. Higher patient-to-nurse ratios lead to higher patient death rates. The Legislature needs to take action and set staffing ratios that ensure quality care."

    NYSNA cited a study published in 2002 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which demonstrated a direct link between patient deaths and high patient-to-RN ratios. The study revealed that each additional patient per Registered Nurse increases that patient's chance of dying by 7%. Patients on surgical units with patient-to-RN ratios of 8:1 were 31% more likely to die within 30 days than those on surgical units with patient-to-RN ratios of 4:1. The study suggests that 1,000 patient deaths could have been averted if mean nursing ratios had been lowered from 8:1 to 4:1.

    "The evidence is clear," said Robert Piemonte, NYSNA president and a Registered Nurse. "Patients die needlessly in hospitals and other health care facilities across the country, because each nurse has too many patients to care for."

    NYSNA proposes staffing ratios as part of HCRA reauthorization
    Registered Nurses, consumer groups, and patient advocates have called on the State for several years to require health care facilities to maintain safe RN staffing levels. "With HCRA up for reauthorization this June, it's the perfect opportunity for New York to act on behalf of patients," said Tina Gerardi, deputy executive director of NYSNA.

    NYSNA proposes that New York create minimum, upwardly adjustable patient-to-RN ratios in hospitals. Ratios could be adjusted according to factors such as the type of unit or ward, the daily patient load, and the level of acuity (the patient's condition).

    In 1999, California passed legislation mandating patient-to-nurse ratios for hospitals; it is scheduled to take effect in January 2004. Similar proposals are being considered in other states. NYSNA calls on New York lawmakers to enact staffing ratios that meet the specific needs of New York patients and nurses. "It is time for New York State to take responsibility for the safety and welfare of its hospital patients," said Gerardi.

    Ms. Crane said that part of the effort to provide quality care must include safe RN staffing ratios. "It's getting harder and harder to keep good Registered Nurses and attract new ones to an environment that has become increasingly difficult to work in," said Crane. "Registered Nurses are leaving bedside care because of understaffing, which leads to burnout, which causes more RNs to leave bedside care. It's a vicious circle."

    "New York is in the midst of a full-blown public health crisis," said Gerardi. "Failure to act now will only perpetuate this crisis, jeopardizing the quality of care of all New York patients. Our elected officials have a responsibility to the people of this state to make safe staffing a priority."

    Zogby International conducted interviews of 703 likely voters chosen at random in New York State from Thursday, Feb. 20 to Sunday, Feb. 23, 2003. The margin of error was +/- 3.8%.

    NYSNA is the professional association for registered nurses in New York with more than 34,000 members statewide. A multipurpose organization, NYSNA fosters high standards of nursing education and practice and works to advance the profession through legislative activity and collective bargaining. NYSNA is a constituent of the American Nurses Association (ANA) and its labor arm, the United American Nurses (UAN), which is an affiliate of the AFL-CIO.
    Last edit by -jt on Mar 10, '03
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    About -jt

    Joined: Oct '00; Posts: 2,662; Likes: 46


  3. by   deespoohbear
    Plan to print this out and place it in the DON's mailbox with a copy for the administrator and the hospital board!!

    Thanks -jt for posting it. You and NRSKarenRN always have links to EVERY conceivable nursing story on the web!!! How do you find all this stuff?
  4. by   -jt
    We're active members of our own state nurses assocs. We're kept informed. Thats part of what we're paying for.
    Last edit by -jt on Mar 14, '03
  5. by   NRSKarenRN
    Because we are members of our state nurses association, we have the option of joining for free our legislative and other listserves to get regular updates about out profession.

    I get weekly/monthly emails from PSNA, ANA, Nurseweek, Nursing Spectrum, Healthleaders.com, medscape.com, Phila. business journal, OJIN (Online Journal of Issues in Nursing). I check out websites of CNA, PASNAP, SEIU, advance for nurses too-----all to keep update with my profession and issues affecting healthcare that affect my practice.

    Check out the website of you state association---might me surprised what you find:
    Last edit by NRSKarenRN on Mar 10, '03
  6. by   -jt
    Yesterday my doctor wanted to admit me to the hospital for "at least a week". He couldnt understand why I refused, so I told him to read the report. I dont have anything serious but if I go into the hospital who knows what Ill end up with - somebody elses meds? the wrong dose of my own? the wrong IV? I had to convince him that being in the hospital would cause me a lot of stress and anxiety and thus delay my healing process. He agreed to let me stay home if I do nothing but rest and see him in the office every week. Fine by me. Looking for a parking spot near his office in Park Slope, Brooklyn every Friday afternoon is a lot less life threatening.
  7. by   caroladybelle
    I am acutely allergic to tylenol.

    Every single time (and I do mean EVERY) that I have been admitted to the hospital, someone has attempted to give me some form of Tylenol (percocet, darvocet,etc.).. I have had more people hand me meds that were dangerous to me than you can shake a stick at.

    So I can definitely relate, JT
  8. by   Repat
    deespoohbear - thanks for that question! I was wondering where they got their info, too. Makes me reconsider joining the ANA!!
  9. by   -jt
    <Albany, N.Y., March 10, 2003-More than 300 Registered Nurses, members of the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), converged on Albany today to lobby for patient safety in hospitals and nursing homes. They called on the Legislature to ensure quality patient care ....>

    Pro-active nurses can make the difference.
    For update on the state's response following that event, see:
    Assembly Labor Committee Approves Bills to Improve Safety for Patients and Nurses
    Last edit by -jt on Mar 19, '03
  10. by   K O'Malley
    -jt, LOL! I pray everyday that I and my loved ones will never have to be a patient in a hospital. They are dangerous places. I have seen far too many awful mistakes, far too little concern for the comfort and safety of the patients.