Minimum nurse-to-patient ratios policy saves lives and lowers costs

A new study published in The Lancet shows that a policy establishing minimum nurse-to-patient staffing ratios in hospitals in Queensland, Australia saves lives, prevents readmissions, shortens hospital stays, and reduces costs.

Three masked nurses in scrubs and one masked doctor standing in a line smiling and clapping.

The study, by the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research (CHOPR) at Penn’s School of Nursing, and the Queensland University of Technology School of Nursing, evaluated legislation enacted in 2016 as a safety measure. The new policy limited the average number of patients per nurse to four, similar to pending legislation in New York and Illinois. “The positive results in Queensland should inform policies in the U.S. and elsewhere,” says lead author Matthew McHugh, the Independence Chair for Nursing Education and CHOPR Director.

The researchers collected extensive data before and after the legislation from about 17,000 nurses and analyzed of outcomes for more than 400,000 patients. They found that there was a clear need for a safe hospital nurse staffing standard, and the policy led to better nurse staffing in the intervention hospitals. They also found that the staffing improvements stimulated by the policy led to better outcomes for patients, and are consistent with a substantial body of evidence on the positive effects on patient outcomes when nurses have a reasonable number of patients in their care. There is similarly strong evidence that when staffing levels improve, nurses experience less burnout and job dissatisfaction, which are key drivers to costly turnover and result in nurses leaving their careers at the bedside.

Read more at Penn Nursing News.