RN levels impact patient mortality

Staffing of RNs below target levels is associated with increased mortality, according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Using data from an academic medical center, the study looked at the association between mortality and patient exposure to nursing shifts during which staffing by RNs was 8 hours or more below the target.  

Key findings:

  • When target RN levels fell eight or more hours below the target level, the patients' overall mortality risk increased by 2 percent.
  • When nurses' workloads increase because of high patient turnover in individual units, mortality risk increased by 4 percent.
  • 15.9% of all shifts in the study had staffing levels that were 8 hours or more below target, with night shifts the most likely to be below target.

The study concludes that that there is a great need to match staffing with patients' needs for nursing care, and that staffing should be adjusted to account for the effect of turnover.

(Source: The New England Journal of Medicine, http://www.nejm.org/, March 17, 2011)