Hospitals' labor costs rose and patient deaths declined when nurses were assigned fewer patients, researchers reported in the journal Medical Care.
The benefit lessened at lower nurse-to-patient ratios, as expenses increased at a faster rate and the drop in mortality slowed, according to the study. For example, reducing a nurse's workload to seven patients from eight increased labor costs $46,000 for every life saved. Reducing the load to four patients from five amounted to a $142,000 increase in labor costs for every life saved.
The figures do not include savings from shorter hospital stays, which would offset half the labor costs, the study said. Read the abstract.