Experienced nurses: great for patients, great for hospitals


Thinkstock / Monkeybusinessimages

Thinkstock / Monkeybusinessimages

Patients cared for by more experienced nurses not only receive better care, but also have shorter hospital stays.

This finding comes from an extensive new study published by researchers at the Columbia University School of Nursing and Columbia Business School. The new research also shows that it is more cost-effective for hospitals to encourage staff retention.

Researchers reviewed more than 900,000 patient admissions at the Veterans Administration Healthcare System from 2003 – 2006, accounting for the largest study of its kind to link nursing staffing to patient outcomes. One finding showed that each one-year increase in average tenure of RNs at a hospital results in a 1.3 percent decrease in length of hospital stay. Because of this, researchers say hospitals should be encouraged to retain nurses and keep nurse teams together.

“Reducing length of stay is the holy grail of hospital management because it means patients are getting higher quality, more cost-effective care,” said study author Patricia Stone, PhD, RN, FAAN, Centennial Professor of Health Policy at Columbia Nursing, in a press release. “When the same team of nurses works together over the years, the nurses develop a rhythm and routines that lead to more efficient care. Hospitals need to keep this in mind when making staffing decisions – disrupting the balance of a team can make quality go down and costs go up.”

More than technical ability

An unrelated study shines yet more light on the many ways nurses help patients. Research presented at the EuroHeartCare 2014 conference in Stavanger, Norway finds that patients consoled by nurses during uncomfortable procedures experienced less pain than those who were not.

The aid that nurse compassion brings to patients is evident nearly every day to nurses, but this is one of the first studies to study the effects of nurse compassion based on scientific data. Nurses had patients visualize a safe place during ablation of atrial fibrillation.

“We ask patients to describe a comfortable safe place they want to be during the procedure,” said Marianne Wetendorff Nørgaard, lead author of the study in a press release. “People have chosen a summer house, the beach, or the woods. During the procedure the nurse asks the patient to focus on their safe place and how it looks, smells and sounds.”

While Nørgaard also mentions that this method could, in certain cases, be used to replace general anesthesia, it also highlights the overall aid nurses provide to patients that is not directly related to technical care.

In a article concerning the study, U.S. nurses spoke of the many aspects of care nurses provide.

“Not only do we have exceptional clinical and technical skills to perform the most challenging tasks, we also practice with a humanistic, compassionate, holistic approach that can make the most challenging diagnosis or prognosis easy to conquer,” said Barbara Ravida, MSN, CCRN, ANP-BC, of the Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center in New York.

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