An internationally renowned patient safety researcher has shown that increasing the workload of nurses leads to an increased risk of patients dying in hospital.
Professor Linda Aiken from the University of Pennsylvania addressed a Queensland Nurses Union symposium in Brisbane today, stating that research also showed that the greater the number of bachelor educated nurses, the lower the number of deaths.
This is particularly interesting given the current level of interest by major private and public hospitals in swapping out more expensive Registered Nurses, for more “economical” Enrolled Nurses.
The research (published in The Lancet) speaks volumes as to which direction the hospitals should be progressing: more RN’s = lower deaths.
Professor Aiken stated “every patient added to a nurse’s workload was associated with a 7 per cent increase in hospital deaths after common surgery.”
She cited a study involving nine European hospitals, where it was shown that if they had at least 60 per cent bachelor-educated nurses and no more than 6 patients each, more than 3,500 deaths a year might be prevented.
Nursing is foundational to patient safety. This has been problematic for improving patient safety because nursing is a soft target for budget reductions.
We’re not really improving patient safety as much as we would like because we’re ignoring the foundational contribution of adequate nurse staffing and good work environments to improving patient safety.
As a side note, it was also interesting to discover that her research showed that patient satisfaction was lower in hospitals that used more overseas-educated nurses.
“Culture is important, and culture and communication of nurses is essential,” stated Dr Aiken.
“So every country’s own nurses do a better job of communicating with its own patients than nurses from other countries.”
“That’s why you can’t assume that bringing nurses from other countries are really a good substitute for your own nurses.”
“The key to this is foreign-educated nurses could enhance care as long as they’re not substituting for your own nurses.”