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Needleman, Buerhaus: Nurse short-staffing leads to deadly complications, failure to rescue and increased hospital stays

May 30, 2002 -- In today's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), researchers Jack Needleman of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston and Peter Buerhaus of Vanderbilt University’s School of Nursing in Nashville, Tennessee found that nurse short-staffing leads to deadly consequences for patients.

The study analyzed discharge data from 6 million patients and financial data and staffing surveys from 800 hospitals in 11 US states. When nurses were short-staffed, patients suffered up to 25% more life-threatening complications including infections, bleeding, pneumonia, shock, cardiac arrest, and "failure to rescue," all of which contributed to an increased length of hospital stay.

Full citation:

Jack Needleman, Ph.D., Peter Buerhaus, Ph.D., R.N., Soeren Mattke, M.D., M.P.H., Maureen Stewart, B.A., and Katya Zelevinsky. (2002). Nurse-Staffing Levels and the Quality of Care in Hospitals. New England Journal of Medicine. May 30; 346 (22),1715-1722.


See the abstract on the NEJM web site or more detail and tables on the Harvard web site or the Vanderbilt web site.