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Fewer nurses = more deaths

Decreasing nurse staffing levels increases the risk of death for hospitalized elderly patients with hip fractures.

A physician-led research study recently presented at the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons 2010 Annual Meeting found that the risk of death for elderly hospitalized patients with hip fractures increases 22% when nursing staff is reduced by 1 full-time nurse per day.  Given the cost-cutting measures occurring nationwide — which frequently result in staffing decreases– the study is concrete proof that nurses bring value to the bedside.

What management may perceive as excess nursing staff “may in fact prevent long-term problems,” said senior author Paul Joseph Dougherty, MD.  Two of the most common causes of death for hip fracture patients are pulmonary embolism and acute MI — both among the most preventable causes of death.  The study authors speculate that nursing care may decrease post-op UTIs, pneumonia and sepsis as well. 

While most other studies that quantify nurses’ value have been conducted by nurses, this study was completed by a group of orthpaedic surgeons.

What do you think?  Do the physicians at your workplace fully understand the value of nurses?

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Jennifer Fink, RN, BSN

Jennifer is a professional freelance writer with over eight years experience as a hospital nurse. She has clinical experience in adult health, including med-surg, geriatrics and transplant; she also has a particular interest in women’s health and cancer care. Jennifer has written a variety of health and parenting articles for national publications.

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