Nurse Retention: Nurse Burnout Linked to High Frequency of Hospital-Acquired Infections

Written by LeAnn Thieman, CSP, July 2nd, 2013

Overburdened nurses are getting more attention from the media and administration, but one researcher always found a “missing link” in these stories.

“There’s so much data on nurse to patient ratios and hours worked but it simply being overworked doesn’t seem to tell the whole story,” said Jeannie Cimiotti, DNSc, RN, executive director of New Jersey Collaborating Center for Nursing and associate professor at Rutgers University School of Nursing. “What is it about nurse staffing that can promote infection?”

Cimiotti’s “burning question” about the connection between over-scheduled nurses and increasing infections led her to Christine Maslock’s theory of burnout and found the culprit.

“The burnout theory just fit,” she explained. “People in professions with constant contact with the public (firefighters, police offers, nurses) become burned out and cognitively detach. If a nurse suffers a high level of burnout and detaches, things start to go wrong. Maybe they don’t adhere to hand hygiene or the device stays in a little longer than it should.”

Sometimes the stress of the job causes the nurse to emotionally pull away from the environment and take the easy route.

Comparing catheter-associated urinary tract infection (CAUTI) rates with nurses’ patient loads (5.7 patients on average), Cimiotti and researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing found that for each additional patient assigned to a nurse, there was roughly one additional infection per 1,000 patients (or 1,351 additional infections per year, calculated across the survey population).

Additionally, each 10% increase in a hospital’s high-burnout nurses corresponded with nearly one additional CAUTI and two additional SSIs per 1,000 patients annually (average rate of CAUTIs across hospitals was nine per 1,000 patients; for SSIs it was five per 1,000 patients).

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One response to “Nurse Retention: Nurse Burnout Linked to High Frequency of Hospital-Acquired Infections”

  1. edith says:

    it will be interesting to conduct a research in my workplace about the topic. I am working in Abu Dhabi

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