Hospitals With More Nurses Give Better Care
May 5, 2000 -- As more and more hospitals try to cut costs by trimming their
staffs, a new study suggests that registered nurses (RNs) should be some of the
last staffers to go -- because patients fare better in hospitals with more
In the study, researchers found that patients treated in hospitals with
greater numbers of registered nurses had shorter hospital stays, fewer cases of
hospital-acquired pneumonia and fewer post-surgery infections, bed sores, and
urinary tract infections than patients at hospitals with fewer RNs.
"Shorter lengths of stay and fewer complications translate into lower
hospital costs," writes Mary Foley, MS, RN, in a research announcement.
Foley is the president of the American Nurses Association (ANA), which released
the study's results at the Nurse Staffing Summit, held in Washington, D.C., on
Monday and Tuesday.
"Not only do patients fare better," Foley writes, "but hospitals
can actually save money by using highly skilled nurses in adequate
numbers." The new findings come at a time when many hospitals are
experiencing a shortage of nurses.
"It makes no sense for hospitals to cut RN staff or replace RNs with
unlicensed assistive personnel who lack the education and judgment of RNs,"
she says. "For years, hospitals have tried to cut corners in this way but
the data keep disproving this approach."
Now RNs have the data to support their value to hospital patients, she
To arrive at the findings, the researchers from Network Inc., a hospital and
health care research organization, reviewed hospital and insurance data from
nine states. Overall, patients in hospitals with more nurses had fewer
complications than patients who received their care in hospitals with fewer RNs
on staff, the study showed.
Few RNs are surprised by the new findings.
"Nursing care is critical to patients in the hospital," Christine
Kovner, RN, PhD, a professor in the division of nursing at New York University
in New York City, tells WebMD. "Nurses are the people that are there 24
hours a day monitoring patients and assessing what is going on with the
For example, if a nurse is there to monitor a patient after surgery, he or
she can catch any early warning signs of pneumonia by monitoring the patient's
breathing and the sounds in his or her chest.
"The No. 1 reason we need more nurses is that patients who are monitored
carefully will likely do [better] than patients who aren't," she tells
A nurse's primary responsibilities are to dispense medications and handle
any emergencies, Kovner says. But when there are not enough nurses on staff,
the ones present don't have the time to do monitoring to prevent complications,
"We are concerned about the status of patients who need care and
monitoring and that care not being available," says Sally Raphel, MSN, RN,
director of nursing practice and quality initiative at the ANA.