JCAHO Survey Linking Nursing Shortage to Medical Errors Released
As expected, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations today released a report finding that the nursing shortage has "contributed to nearly a quarter of the unanticipated problems that result in death or injury to hospital patients," the New York Times reports. There are currently 126,000 vacant nursing positions at hospitals nationwide, and JCAHO, a not-for-profit group that inspects and accredits hospitals and nursing homes, said the situation "might worsen" because only 12% of registered nurses are younger than 30, and more people are leaving the field than entering it. Although hospitals have maintained that the shortage has not "harm[ed] patients," the report linked the lack of staff to "ill health," according to the Times. JCAHO examined 1,609 hospital reports of patient deaths and injuries since 1996 and found that low nursing staff levels were a "contributing factor" in 24% of the cases, a level that "surprised everybody," according to Dr. Dennis O'Leary, the commission's president. To alleviate the problem, the report calls for improvements in nurse education and asserts that the government should base Medicare and Medicaid payments on a hospital's performance in improving nursing care, the Times reports (Stolberg, New York Times, 8/8). JCAHO also proposes establishing "magnet hospitals" that would be designed to attract and retain nurses by offering improved training, setting staffing levels and establishing a zero-tolerance policy for abuse against nurses (California Healthline, 8/7). ABCNews' "World News Tonight" last night broadcast a feature about JCAHO's report on the nursing shortage (Pozniak et al., "World News Tonight," ABCNews, 8/7). A transcript of the segment is available online. In addition, the full segment is available online in RealPlayer.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.