Nurses’ Experience Key to Better Patient Care, Study Says

By on April 18, 2014

Nurses' Experience Key to Better Patient Care, Study Says

Patients may get the best care when treated in hospital units staffed by highly experienced nurses, a new study shows.

Researchers analyzed data from more than 900,000 patients admitted over four years to U.S. Veterans Administration hospitals and found that for each one-year increase in the average tenure of registered nurses in a hospital unit, patients spent 1.3 percent less time in the hospital.

A shorter hospital stay indicates that a patient received better care, and is also more cost-effective, according to the researchers from Columbia University in New York City.

They also found that patients’ length of stay increased when a team of RNs (registered nurses) had to do without an experienced member or had a new member assigned to them.

The study appears in the current issue of American Economic Journal: Applied Economics.

“Reducing length of stay is the holy grail of hospital management because it means patients are getting higher quality, more cost-effective care,” senior study author Patricia Stone, a professor of health policy at Columbia’s School of Nursing, said in a university news release.

“When the same team of nurses works together over the years, the nurses develop a rhythm and routines that lead to more efficient care,” Stone said. “Hospitals need to keep this in mind when making staffing decisions — disrupting the balance of a team can make quality go down and costs go up.”

The findings show that hospital chief executives should consider policies to retain the most experienced nurses and create a work environment that encourages nurses to remain in their current units, study co-author Ann Bartel, a professor of workforce transformation at Columbia Business School, said in the news release.

More information

The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality offers a guide to health care quality.

Source: HealthDay

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