Thursday, January 12, 2006

More nurses - lives saved

A study in the January/February 2006 issue of the journal Health Affairs concludes that increasing the number of registered nurses and hours of nursing care per patient would save 6,700 lives and 4 million days of patient care in hospitals each year.

The research also finds that for hospitals that use both RNs and licensed practical nurses (LPNs), greater use of RNs appears to pay for itself in fewer patient deaths, reduced lengths of hospital stay, and decreased rates of hospital-linked complications such as urinary arrest and upper gastrointestinal bleeding.

"From a hospital's perspective, increasing nurse staffing is costly. Nevertheless, greater use of RNs in preference to LPNs appears to pay for itself," the authors say.

The cost of changing the RN/LPN mix without changing licensed hours is low relative to other options and the authors estimate such a move would save $242 million over the short-term and $1.8 billion over time.

As you may recall, Gov. Arnold Schwarenegger issued a ceasefire on the issue of mandatory nurse-to-patient ratios after the reform measure to overturn the initiative was voted down in November of 2005. The initiative would have reduced the state’s hospitals’ nurse-to-patient ratios from one nurse for every six patients to one nurse for every five patients, a ratio that Schwarzenegger maintained would put hospitals in a financial bind to recruit, hire and retain more nurses.

Mandatory nurse/patient ratios: A good idea or not?

An important topic? I think so. Not to frighten you, but sometimes individuals go into hospitals to heal, but don't make it out alive. This is not to say that nurse-patient ratios are to blame, but overworked, tired people can make mistakes.

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