Nursing shortage affects patient postsurgery survival

The ongoing nursing shortage can have a direct effect on a patient’s survival after surgery, according to a new study.

Linda H. Aiken, MD, from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, surveyed more than 10,000 staff nurses and reviewed medical data on more than 230,000 general, orthopedic, and vascular surgery patients, all discharged from one of 168 Pennsylvania hospitals over nearly two years (JAMA 2002; 288:1,987-1,993).

Aiken reports that the patient-to-nurse ratio ranged from less than 4-to-1 to more than 8-to-1, and the research revealed a correlation between a higher patient-to-nurse ratio and an increased risk of patient death. Each additional patient per nurse was associated with a 7% increase in the risk of dying within 30 days of surgery, she says.