How Nurses Make the Difference

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Nurses are a valuable and very important part of patient care and recovery.When you visit the hospital, most of your care will likely be administered by a team of nurses. Nurses are a valuable and very important part of patient care and recovery. In honor of National Nurses Week, here is some positive news in the form of new legislation that’s going before Congress in the U. S.

The new bill, called “The Registered Nurse Safe Staffing Act,” is intended to give nurses more power over the decisions that drive hospital care. One of the things nurses will be allowed to determine is how much staff they feel is needed to give a patient the best care possible.

There’s a lot of published proof that shows the more nursing staff you have at a hospital, the less likely there is to be adverse events in patient care. For example, one study, conducted at the Department of Intensive Care Medicine, Royal Brisbane & Women’s Hospital in Australia, looked at the relationship between nurse staffing levels and adverse patient events.

This was a high quality study that won the ACCCN (The Australian College of Critical Care Nurses) award for “Best Nursing Review Paper for 2011.” The ACCCN is a national organization whose members include over 2,400 critical care nurses.

For the study, the Australian research team reviewed various trials and found 19 that met their inclusion criteria and that specifically focused on the likelihood of certain adverse health events, such as infection, pressure ulcers, and mortality. Many of the 19 studies showed that the more nurses staffing intensive care units, the less likely patients were to run into serious health problems during their hospital stay. This is backed up by two more studies—also both clinical reviews—which came to the same conclusion: the better the ratio between nurse and patient, the lower the chances for adverse events.

PLUS: The health care debate

If accepted by Congress, The Registered Nurse Safe Staffing Act will give nurses the power to determine what staffing levels are optimal for the best patient care. While it’s agreed that more nurses are better, the exact numbers for various departments in hospitals have not been established. The American Nurses Association is weighing in, saying it backs this new bill. They know that the number of nursing staff has a direct influence on patient safety. If passed, it’s hoped that this bill will protect not only the health of patients, but also the rights of nurses to have fair working conditions.

The bill calls for hospitals to create committees to address nursing staff needs based on specific factors such as: the number of patients in a hospital care unit; the technology available in a hospital care unit to assist nurses; the seriousness of a patient’s condition; and the skill and experience level of RNs assigned to work in a hospital care unit. This bill is pushing for these committees to be comprised of at least half direct care nurses. That way, these nurses can provide feedback directly from the “front lines” of hospital care.

Source(s) for Today’s Article:
McGahan, M., et al., “Nurse staffing levels and the incidence of mortality and morbidity in the adult intensive care unit: a literature review,” Aust Crit Care. May 2012; 25(2): 64-77.
Bray, K., et al, “Standards for nurse staffing in critical care units determined by: The British Association of Critical Care Nurses, The Critical Care Networks National Nurse Leads, Royal College of Nursing Critical Care and In-flight Forum,” Nurs Crit Care. May-June 2010; 15(3): 109-11.
Penover, D.A., et al., “Nurse staffing and patient outcomes in critical care: a concise review,” Crit Care Med. July 2010; 38(7): 1521-8; quiz 1529
“Registered Nurse safe staffing bill introduced in congress – Nurse staffing directly impacts patient safety; direct care nurses to drive staffing plans,” American Nurses Association web site; PressRelease_RN Safe Staffing Bill_FINAL.pdf, last accessed May 7, 2013.