Nursing News: Increased Nurse Staffing Pays Off

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

A new study found that increasing nurse staffing levels could help hospitals avoid Medicare penalties for avoidable readmissions.

The study appeared in the October issue of Health Affairs and covered readmissions of Medicare patients who suffered heart attacks, heart failure or pneumonia. The researchers, led by Matthew McHugh, an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, looked at nurse staffing levels and readmission data from 2,826 hospitals. They found that hospitals with high nurse staff levels had 25% lower odds of being penalized compared to facilities with lower nurse-staffing ratios. Higher-nurse staffed hospitals also had 41% lower odds of receiving the maximum penalty for readmissions.

The research team estimated that each additional nurse hour per patient day brought 10% lower odds of receiving penalties from the Hospital Readmissions Program, the federal effort that started in October 2012 and aimed to reduce the $15 billion in annual Medicare expenditures on preventable readmissions. Hospitals paid about $280 million in penalties for preventable readmissions in fiscal 2013.

In a news release, McHugh said nurses are responsible for many activities associated with reducing readmissions, including coordinating care, overseeing care in the hospital, planning for patients’ discharge from the hospitals, and educating patients and their families about what to do when they return home. “It’s rather intuitive that when they have adequate staffing and resources to carry out these activities properly, readmission rates decline. This study strongly supports the idea that nurse staffing is one key component of healthcare delivery that hospitals can address to both improve patient outcomes and reduce the likelihood of being penalized for excessive readmissions.”

More nurses will be needed to meet these ratios. To learn strategies for nurse retention and nurse recruitment visit SelfCare for HealthCare™. CONTACT ME DIRECTLY to discuss customizing this powerful program for your employees.


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