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Hospitals With More Nurses Give Better Care

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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 RNs.

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 says.

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 patients."

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