Nurse Retention and Recruitment News: Adequate Nurse Staffing Saves Lives

Written by LeAnn Thieman, CSP, September 10th, 2013

Increased paperwork and charting, along with increasing complexity of care, means the amount of time nurses have for all their patients is diminishing. And as hospitals face increasing financial pressure, nurse staffing often suffers because nurses make up the biggest portion of any hospital’s labor costs.

For patients, though, the moral calculus of this doesn’t add up. Pioneering work done by Linda H. Aiken at the University of Pennsylvania in 2002 showed that each extra patient a nurse had above an established nurse-patient ratio made it 7% more likely that one of the patients would die. She discovered that 20,000 people died a year because they were in hospitals with overworked nurses.

Research also shows that when floors are adequately staffed with nurses, the number of patients injured by falls declines. Staff increases lead to reduced hospital-acquired infections, which kill 100,000 patients every year.

The importance of sufficient nurse staffing is becoming irrefutable, so much so that the Registered Nurse Safe-Staffing Act of 2013 was recently introduced by Representatives Lois Capps, a Democrat from California and a nurse, and David Joyce, a Republican from Ohio.

Among other things, the act would require that hospitals include their nurse staffing levels on Medicare’s Hospital Compare Web site and post their staffing levels in a visible place in every hospital.

Concerns over money will determine whether this bill has a chance at passing. Yet data suggests that sufficient staffing can significantly reduce hospital costs. Understaffing leads to burnout and nurses’ quitting their jobs, both of which cost money in terms of absenteeism and training new staff.

Having enough nurses increases patient-satisfaction scores, which also helps maintain Medicare reimbursement levels.

To learn how to recruit nurses and retain nurses to improve staffing levels go to SelfCare for HealthCare. Feel free to CONTACT ME DIRECTLY to talk about customizing a program that is specific to your facility’s needs.

2 responses to “Nurse Retention and Recruitment News: Adequate Nurse Staffing Saves Lives”

  1. Norm Erwin says:

    1-What Nurse non-patient interface activities can be automated?
    2-Can the role of CNA be expanded upward just a scootch to support the RNs activities?
    3-What ever happened to the “Candy Stripers?
    4-There may be some relief ahead with the evolving “Intelligent Hospital” (

    Automation can never replace the caring human spirit but humanity should be able to make automation do the repetitive tasks that give the RN more time and freedom to do what they do best.

  2. The problem with this is the fact that with the high variability in patient acuity and need across varieties of hospital with variable case mix indexes it may be hard to compare apples to oranges in a way that the population reviewing the data would understand what various patient populations need. For instance a teaching institution with a high acuity and case mix index would require more nursing staffing than a community hospital with a low case mix index. I do agree that Linda Aiken’s work is very convincing and suggestive of the advantage of nurses at the bedside and she has done a marvelous job of charting the new waters for the profession. As a hospital administrator I always felt that reducing nursing staffing due to budget cuts is truly penny wise and pound foolish and the money lost in law suits for falls alone would negate the savings in the salaries. Unfortunately, decreasing margins in hospitals continues to put pressure on nursing staffing especially since in any organization, the nursing staff is the biggest expense. We as a community of nurses need to do a better job of representing our value to the world which I think is where we consistently drop the ball. It cannot be through complaining and protests but rather has to be done with data and science that builds a solid case.

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