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CHOPR International Study Confirms Link Between Nursing Education and Patient Outcomes

Research from the RN4CAST Consortium indicates that better investment in nursing can improve outcomes

     New research published in The Lancet, shows that patients experiencing complications after surgery are more likely to survive if treated in hospitals with adequate nurse staffing levels and higher numbers of nurses prepared at the baccalaureate degree level. To determine whether differences in patient-to-nurse workloads and nurses’ educational qualifications affect patients’ survival after surgery, Professor of Nursing and Center Director, Linda H. Aiken along with the RN4Cast Consortium, analyzed responses from more than 26,000 nurses. The team led by Aiken reviewed the medical records of almost 500,000 patients (aged 50 years or older) who were discharged following a general surgical procedure in hospitals across nine European countries. The patient outcomes signal that in Europe, as in the U.S., failing to invest in bachelor’s nurse education and cutting costs by reducing nurse staffing may put hospitalized patients at greater risk of dying.

     The striking results show that every extra patient added to a nurse’s average workload increases the chance of surgical patients dying within 30 days of admission by 7%. Interestingly, a 10% increase in the proportion of nurses holding a bachelor degree is associated with a 7% decrease in the risk of death. “Our findings emphasize the risk to patients that could emerge in response to nurse staffing cuts under recent austerity measures, and suggest that an increased emphasis on bachelor’s education for nurses could reduce hospital deaths”, says Professor Linda H. Aiken speaking from the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, “A safe level of hospital nursing staff might help to reduce surgical mortality, and challenge the widely held view that nurses’ experience is more important than their education.”