Nurses workloads have been linked to higher death rates in surgical patients.  Nurses are some of the busiest people in healthcare today.  Between the hands on care of patients, charting and administering medications, nurses have their work cut out for them.
Because of this extreme workload a recent study was conducted to establish the correlation between patient's surgical morbidity and nurse workload.  The results of the study were published in the Lancet.  Researchers from nine different European countries studied 420,000 patients in 300 hospitals.  Their finding showed that for every patient added to a nurses workload, the chances of surgical patients dying withiin 30 days of admission increases by 7%.
Their investigation took into account each patient's risk of death and included age, sex, type of surgery, reason for admission and the presence of  any chronic conditions.  They also considered hospital characteristics, technology, patient's bed size and teaching status.
During the study, the team evaluated responses from over 26,500 nurses.  They then reviewed the medical records  of thousands of patients aged 50 years or older who were discharged after routine surgeries, such as  appendectomy, cholecystectomy, joint replacements and vascular procedures.
Linda Aiken, lead research professor  from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, says:  "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."
The results of this study may be too expensive to act upon. The study revealed that the percentage of patients who died within 20 days of admission was quite low. Between the average of 1.0-1.5%  But researchers say that the percentage varied between hospitals and ranged from 1% to over 7% and to add to this, the average patient to nurse ratio differed among countries.
What does all this mean?  According to the authors:
"These associations imply that patients in hospitals in which 60% of nurses had bachelor's degrees and nurses cared for an average of six patients would have almost 30% lower mortality than patients in hospitals in which only 30% of nurses had bachelor's degrees and nurses cared for an average of eight patients."
Professor Aiken states that,  " 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."
There's no denying that these research results support seeking lower patient- to- nurse ratios.
But the reseachers say,
"Whether these findings are used to inform health care policy or how they are implemented in practice will be interesting to see," they say.
"We fear that the evidence here will not be tried and found wanting, but will rather be deemed too expensive to act upon."  It is certain that these ratios need to change in order to increase patient's survival rates and decrease the burden on nurses, so they can better care for their patients. As a nurse, I would like to see more studies conducted on this subject, ultimately resulting in change for the better, in order to benefit nurses and improve  patient ourcomes.  Only time will tell.
What do you think about this study?   Do you think nurse-patient-ratios will ever improve?