Hospitals as an industry could prevent patient deaths by hiring more nurses and possibly save billions of dollars from reduced patient days, although for two of three strategies examined, the increased labor costs would exceed those savings, a study found. Researchers analyzed the effects of three nursing labor strategies using data from 799 acute-care hospitals in 11 states. Increasing the proportion of nursing hours provided by registered nurses instead of licensed practical nurses to 94%, without increasing the overall number of nursing hours, would net the nation's hospitals $242 million in annual savings. The increase in the proportion of RN hours to total hours -- from a previous mean of 87% -- would avert roughly 5,000 patient deaths and 1.5 million patient days annually, according to the study in Health Affairs. The second strategy would require hospitals to boost the total number of nursing hours provided, whether by RNs or LPNs, to 10.23 hours per patient day from a mean of 8.99. The result, at a net cost to the hospitals of $5.8 billion, would be 1,800 fewer patient deaths and 2.6 million fewer patient days. The third strategy -- having RNs provide 94% of nursing hours and raising the number of nursing hours to 10.23 per day -- would save 6,750 lives and 4.1 million patient days annually at a net cost to hospitals of $5.7 billion. Read the abstract. -- by Melanie Evans
More nurses, fewer deaths, but rarely net savings: study
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