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Nurse staffing study predicts Calif. mandate would save lives elsewhere


By Joe Carlson
Posted: April 20, 2010 - 12:01 am ET
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If nurses in New Jersey enjoyed the nurse-patient staffing ratios seen by their colleagues in California, researchers estimate that the Garden State might have seen 14% fewer surgical deaths in 2006, according to predictive modeling in a new study of nurse-patient ratios.

The study, “Implications of the California nurse staffing mandate for other states,” published today in the journal Health Services Research, finds that the nurse-to-patient ratios enacted by law in California in 2004 have had the effect of decreasing nurse burnout and lowering turnover and the number who reported that workloads caused them to miss changes in patient conditions.

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The data, collected from 22,336 registered nurses in California, New Jersey and Pennsylvania in 604 nonfederal hospitals in 2006, were then applied to hospital-specific mortality data to come up with estimates of the effects on 30-day inpatient mortality and failure-to-rescue events.

Those predicted probabilities led to the conclusion that if New Jersey had had California's nursing ratios, 222 patients might not have died. In Pennsylvania, it was 264 fewer patients, or an 11% decrease.

University of Pennsylvania researcher Linda Aiken was lead author of the study, which was sponsored by the National Institute of Nursing Research, the National Institutes of Health, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and staffing firm AMN Healthcare.

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