Safe nurse staffing standards in hospitals saves lives and lowers costs

A new study published in The Lancet Global Health shows that establishing safe nurse staffing standards in hospitals in Chile could save lives, prevent readmissions, shorten hospital stays, and reduce costs.

Two masked medical professionals attend to a masked patient, taking their blood pressure.

The study, by the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research (CHOPR) at Penn’s School of Nursing, and the Universidad de los Andes - Chile School of Nursing, found very large variations in patient to nurse staffing across 40 hospitals located throughout Chile. Nurse staffing was significantly better in private compared to public hospitals. Differences in nurse staffing across public hospitals were found to be associated with avoidable deaths and higher than necessary costs.

“Nursing has been overlooked in Chile as a solution to healthcare quality and access problems; this study shows investments in improving hospital nurse staffing would result in higher quality of care and greater productivity which could improve access to public hospitals,” says lead-author Linda H. Aiken, professor and founding director of the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research at the School of Nursing.

The researchers collected extensive data from 1,652 nurses practicing in 40 Chilean complex general acute hospitals and analyzed outcomes for more than 761,948 patients. They found that nurse staffing in Chilean hospitals is much worse than international standards. Variation in hospital nurse staffing results in avoidable deaths, and better hospital nurse staffing would reduce costs of care enough to fund additional needed nurses. 

Read more at Penn Nursing News.