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NPR story gives more weight to hospital concerns on nurse safe staffing law than views of nurses

Oct. 23, 2002 --Today NPR's Patricia Neighmond reported on the Aiken study of staffing ratios, published today in JAMA, which found that for each additional patient assigned to a nurse, 30-day patient mortality increases by 7% and the odds of nurse burnout increase by 23%. Ms. Neighmond's report, which also examined the effects of a recently passed California law mandating minimum nurse-to-patient ratios starting in 2004, relied heavily on the perspective of the California Hospital Association (CHA) and a hospital administrator. Not surprisingly, these hospital representatives claimed that the law would make staffing hospitals more difficult and even result in the loss of available beds. A nursing union leader was given comparatively little air time to rebut these assertions, but was at least able to encourage desperate practicing nurses to hang on and wait for the reinforcements who would arrive as soon as the law takes effect.

Ms. Neighmond discussed the mortality implications of the Aiken study, but failed to reveal to her listeners the study's finding that with each additional patient assigned to a nurse, nursing burnout increases by 23%. Listeners may have been left with the impression that nurses simply wanted to care for fewer patients, which would close beds and result in less overall care, for their own selfish ends. The report failed to tell listeners that nurses are demanding proper nurse staffing in order to save their patients' lives, as well as relieve the critical burnout which has driven so many of their skilled, committed colleagues away from the profession entirely. Many nurses feel, and the Aiken study strongly suggests, that poorly staffed hospitals--which cause nursing burnout and thereby contribute to the nursing shortage--are the real barrier to providing better care.

Listen to NPR's: Nurses' Workload Harms Patient Health.

See our write-up of the Aiken study.

See the NY Times editorial regarding the Aiken study.

 

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