Karen B. Lasater, PhD, RN
Nurses are the frontline providers of health care, and as such, are well-positioned to influence patient outcomes. Dr. Lasater’s research identifies how the institutional environments where nurses deliver health care and the policies governing them, impact patient outcomes with a particular focus on patient outcomes that represent complex healthcare challenges.
Nurses are essential to addressing complex health care challenges that are salient to patients and their families.
- PhD, University of Pennsylvania, 2015
- MS, University of Pennsylvania, 2013
- BSN, Quinnipiac University, 2010
Dr. Lasater leads the introductory statistics course for undergraduate nursing students, N230: Statistics for Research and Measurement, teaching that mastery of the fundamentals of statistics is a powerful tool for improving health outcomes. In 2020 Lasater was awarded the Anne Keane Teaching Award from the Department of Biobehavioral Health Sciences.
Decades of research demonstrate that patients have better clinical outcomes of all kinds, including lower odds of dying, when cared for by nurses responsible for fewer patients at a time. Despite the evidence, there remains considerable variation in hospital nurse staffing practices, with negative consequences to patients’ health. Often discussed, but rarely implemented due to a lack of local and recent evidence about whether it is in the public interest, is safe nurse staffing legislation. In a creative partnership with the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Dr. Lasater leads a unique major initiative to rapidly produce evidence about the hospital nurse-to-patient staffing ratios and its association with patient outcomes – information needed to inform policy choices in states considering staffing legislation. This study brings rigorous, current, relevant evidence—collected prior to implementation—to policy discussions impacting the public’s health and healthcare.
Dr. Lasater has also received external funding to study the effects of nursing work environments on patient outcomes at the end of life. Individuals with advanced cancer and near the end of life often find themselves in the hospital where they are at risk for aggressive care they do not want, including intensive care unit admissions, life-prolonging treatments, repeated hospitalizations and emergency department visits, and in-hospital death. Dr. Lasater’s research examines the potential for hospital staff nurses to render patient and family-centered care at the end of life, given the right circumstances. Specifically, Dr. Lasater examines relationships between patient outcomes at the end of life, and modifiable features of nurses’ working conditions, such as patient-to-nurse workloads, work environments conducive to good working relationships with physicians and influence over clinical decision making, and a nursing skill mix that consists of mostly professional nurses including a majority with bachelors or higher education.
Opportunities to Learn and Collaborate at Penn Nursing
Dr. Lasater is a Senior Fellow of the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics – a world-renowned intellectual hub of health-systems research and policy. Through this integrated network of leading health systems and policy researchers, she has worked with scholars across disciplines, including medicine, economics, demography, and statistics. She is a member of the Palliative and Advanced Illness Research (PAIR) Center, a working group focused on improving the aging and end-of-life process – as well as a Research Associate at the Population Aging Research Center (PARC).
Selected Career Highlights
- Senior Fellow, Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics
- Anne Keane Teaching Award, University of Pennsylvania, Department of Biobehavioral Health Sciences, 2020
- New Investigator Award, AcademyHealth Interdisciplinary Research Group on Nursing Issues, 2019
- Junior Faculty Research Award, University of Pennsylvania, Department of Biobehavioral Health Sciences, 2019
- Dorothy Mereness Award for exceptional ability in scholarly writing, University of Pennsylvania, 2015
Lasater KB, McHugh M, Rosenbaum PR, (…), Jain S, Silber JH (2020) Valuing hospital investments in nursing: Multistate matched-cohort study of surgical patients. BMJ Quality & Safety Published Online First: 27 March 2020. doi: 10.1136/bmjqs-2019-010534
Lasater, KB, Germack, H, Small, D, & McHugh, MD. (2017). Hospitals known for nursing excellence perform better on value based purchasing measures. Policy, Politics, & Nursing Practice, 17(4): 177-186.
Lasater, Karen B., Sloane, Douglas M., and Aiken, Linda H. (2015). Hospital employment of supplemental registered nurses and patients’ satisfaction with care. Journal of Nursing Administration: Vol. 45, Issue 3, pp 145–151. [Link here]