Hospital Staffing and Its Effect on Quality Care

In March, The New England Journal of Medicine published data on the relation between decreased nursing staff and mortality rates in hospitals. They noted, “In this retrospective observational study, staffing of RNs below target levels was associated with increased mortality, which reinforces the need to match staffing with patients’ needs for nursing care.” They concluded that a reduction in hospital staff was related to an increase in patient mortality.
In a Health Affairs blog post published yesterday, authors Michael Long and Sandeep Green Vaswani argued that the current hospital model of a 5-day work week is simply not sustainable. It’s also dangerous for patients who receive demonstrably inferior care on the weekends. The authors also note that the 5-day model puts undue pressure on hospital staff during the week because they have to get everything done during that shortened period.
Long and Vaswani advocate a change in how hospitals provide their healthcare services. Such a change would undoubtedly improve the quality of care hospital patients receive. It would also decrease medical errors which were estimated to be $17.1 billion in 2008.