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Evidence that Reducing Patient-to-Nurse Staffing Ratios Can Save Lives and Money

Nurses examining records

Having more nurses can increase patient safety and improve quality of care, yet hospitals often differ in the number of nurses they have per patient. A recent study, funded in part by NINR, examined variation in patient-to-nurse staffing in NY hospitals and its association with adverse outcomes (i.e., mortality and avoidable costs). Findings revealed that nurse staffing varied considerably across hospitals ranging from having 4.3 to 10.5 patients per nurse. Importantly, each additional patient per nurse increased the likelihood of death, length of hospital stays, and chances of being readmitted to the hospital within 30 days. The authors concluded that improving hospital nurse staffing would likely save thousands of lives per year, and that the associated cost would be offset by savings achieved by reducing hospital readmissions and length of hospital stays. This study provides important information for administrators and policymakers to consider when determining ways to improve healthcare.

Lasater KB, Aiken LH, Sloane DM, French R, Anusiewicz CV, Martin B, Reneau K, Alexander M, McHugh MD. Is hospital nurse staffing legislation in the public's interest? An observational study in New York State. Med Care. 2021 May 1;59(5):444-450. PMID: 33655903