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Groundbreaking study shows that nurse short-staffing increases patient mortality, nursing dissatisfaction and nursing burnout

October 23, 2002 -- In a large research study entitled Hospital nurse staffing and patient mortality, nurse burnout, and job dissatisfaction published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, University of Pennsylvania nursing scholar Linda Aiken and her colleagues found that:

Each additional patient assigned to a nurse resulted in a:

  • 30-day patient mortality increases by 7%,
  • failure-to rescue rates increase by 7%,
  • the odds of nursing job dissatisfaction increase by 15% and
  • the odds of nurse burnout increase by 23%.

When nurses had eight patients instead of four, their patients had a 31% higher chance of dying within 30 days of admission.

Forty-three percent of the nurses surveyed were burned out and emotionally exhausted. Nurses who were burned out were 4 times as likely to report that they were leaving their jobs in the next year.

The study examined 10,000 nurses and 230,000 patients from 168 hospitals in Pennsylvania from 1998-1999.

See the abstract of the article in JAMA.

See our write-up of an NPR story on the Aiken study.

See the NY Times editorial regarding the Aiken study which calls on hospitals to report their nurse-patient ratios "so that prospective patients can decide where to take their chances."





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