Study connects nurse education to patient safety

In a study with implications for hospital patients in New York, the number of nurses and the quality of their training could affect the chances of death after even the most basic operation. A nurse with a bachelor's degree and the number of patients they are responsible for could mean an increase of as much as 30 percent in deaths. The head researcher observed that the differences were still drastic even in developed countries. The goal of the study was to work toward reducing patient deaths and improving safety. She feels that focusing on nursing is one way to cut down on the preventable errors.

Results showed that an increase of 10 percent in degreed staff nurses meant a 7 percent reduction in patient deaths. On the other hand, even an increase of one patient per nurse could result in an increase in deaths of 7 percent. The European study across nine nations compared 300 hospitals where nurses cared for six patients and those where nurses cared for eight patients. The rate of bachelor's degrees was 60 percent to 30 percent, respectively. The patients underwent simple operations, such as knee replacement, gallbladder removal or an appendectomy, which needed a hospital stay but weren't particularly life-threatening. Additionally, the team took more serious illnesses and preexisting conditions into account, such as cancer, AIDS and kidney disease.

The study noted that the nurses with a four-year degree were more able to negotiate, think critically, discuss cases rationally and command respect. However, administrators often try to reduce expenses by eliminating nursing positions.

Hospital errors are sometimes serious enough to result in death. A personal injury attorney might be able to help clients who have been the victim of a hospital error to pursue legal action.

Source: Reuters, "Nurse numbers, education linked to patient death rate", Allison Bond, March 07, 2014

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