Care by under-trained staff has negative consequences for patients
Nurses have an important role in hospitals. They care for and look after the patients. Nurses are often overworked and responsible for too many patients at the same time. How does this fact affect mortality rates in hospitals? Physicians from the "University of Southampton" and "Kings College London" have now attempted to answer this question in a study.
If nursing staff in hospitals are overworked and have to take care of too many patients, this can have serious consequences. The British researchers found that patient mortality increases when the nurse in charge has to care for too many patients. The doctors have now published the results of their study in the journal "BMJ Open".
Mortality rate lower if nurse is responsible for a maximum of six patients
If nurses have to care for too many patients, it could have negative effects on the health of the patients, warn medical doctors. Researchers from the University of Southampton and Kings College London found that death rates increase when nurses care for many patients at the same time. The current study found that death rates were significantly lower if the nurses were responsible for six or fewer patients. The mortality rate was about 20 percent lower than that of nurses with more than ten patients, the scientists claim. According to the researchers, there is a shortage of staff in nine out of ten hospitals. Earlier studies had shown that in average hospitals around eight patients had to be cared for by a nurse. The number can increase to fifteen patients during the night, the experts add. In one case, a single nurse even had to care for 22 patients.
Assistants are not a sufficient substitute for trained nurses
Many hospitals hire assistants to compensate for the existing shortage of staff. However, such assistants are usually poorly trained. The scientists found that in hospitals in which many assistants work, the mortality rate has increased by around seven percent, the doctors claim. In the best case, support from assistants makes no difference, in the worst case this increases the mortality rate in hospitals, explains Jane Ball from the "University of Southampton". Current HR development plans in England and other countries indicate a significant increase in the number of helpers. This fact also affects the number of nurses, the researchers explain. However, such a restructuring of the workforce contradicts the evidence found that well-trained nursing staff are associated with fewer negative side effects for our health.
The evidence is a clear warning of the impact on patient care. Assistants are very valuable employees, but they have to complement and not replace registered nursing staff, the scientists add. Another study found that a decrease in the number of nurses in babies leads to higher death rates among our offspring, the British experts claim. The British Association of Perinatal Medicine (BAPM) recommends care that involves a nurse taking care of a newborn baby.
Governments urgently need to train more nurses
The study was an observation and does not provide any clear evidence that undersupply by nurses is to blame for the problem, the doctors explain. But it does appear that reducing the number of nursing staff in intensive care units increases the mortality rate in hospitals, the study authors emphasize. The government has so far failed to take the necessary measures to overcome such shortages. The National Institute for Health and Care (NHS) is now trying to ensure that the right people are deployed in the right place at the right time. There have been more than 10,600 additional nurses since May 2010 and more than 50,000 nurses are in training, a spokesman for the Department of Health told the Daily mail newspaper. (As)