A Minnesota state study designed to examine correlations between nursing staff levels and patient outcomes has instead created animosity between a nurses' union and the state hospital association.
"The hospitals rebuked nurses, patients and legislators by refusing to supply vital information that could improve the quality of patient care and the very safety of patients," Linda Hamilton, president of the Minnesota Nurses Association, said in a statement. "Are they just unwilling to cooperate with a study they themselves agreed to with our lawmakers? Republicans and Democrats alike. Either way, shame on them.'"
The study's authors said in the report published last week (PDF) that they couldn't conduct an appropriately rigorous study because of weak information from the Minnesota Hospital Association, including the organization's Hospital Annual Report and a staffing publication.
Researchers noted that the study also suffered when the MHA advised members against providing unit-level data requested by the Minnesota Department of Health, which was conducting the study at the direction of the state Legislature.
A MHA spokeswoman said hospitals were unable to provide such specific data. The study intended to cover too small a subset of hospitals, and the time needed to compile the data would put an undue burden on its members, she said.
The MHA's annual report provided only yearly hospital-level data, and the staffing report wasn't specific enough and lacked enough data points to conduct an adequate analysis, the state report said.
The state report noted that past research shows that lower nurse staffing levels can lead to higher patient mortality, failure to rescue from surgical complications and falls in the hospital, in addition to drug administration errors, missed nursing care and longer length of stay. However, it noted that research has failed to suggest whether increased staffing levels could mitigate some of these occurrences.
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