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Nurse Shortage Linked to Patient Deaths

Study Shows 7% Boost in Death for Each Additional Patient in Nurses' Workload


To help retain nurses and reduce their workload, the nation's first law to mandate patient-to-nurse ratios takes effect next year in California. By July, hospitals there must have at least one licensed nurse for every six patients.

Although Clarke's is one of the first to quantify how nurse staffing and workload affect patient outcome, its finding wasn't a surprise to the nation's largest group representing practicing nurses.

"This new study reaffirms what nurses have been saying forever: There is a very direct link between the level of staffing and the safety and quality of care that's delivered," says Katherine Kany, RN, spokeswoman for the American Nursing Association.

"We know that the use of overtime is escalating as a stop-gap measure to fill in for shortages in hospital nursing staffs," she tells WebMD. "While having one nurse for four patients may sound like a reasonable level, when that one nurse is working a 16-hour shift, it may not be. Many nurses are aging and getting more tired and more stressed out."

Studies indicate that job dissatisfaction among hospital nurses is four times greater than the average reported by other U.S. workers, and that one in five hospital nurses plans to leave the profession within a year. Nurses, particularly those working in hospitals, have among the highest burnout rates of any profession.

"Getting people interested in nursing and into nursing schools is one thing," says Kany. "But once they start doing some clinical practice and see the realities of the work environment, the light flips on. And that's unfortunate." -->

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