NURSING: More Care Decreases Post-Op Complications
When patients who have undergone surgery receive one additional hour of post-operative nursing care, the risk of developing avoidable complications decreases, according to a new study published in the current issue of Image. Researchers from the U.S. Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR) set out to explore the link between post-op complications and direct nursing care by registered nurses. They determined that the fewer full-time equivalent RNs a hospital employs, the greater its incidence of urinary tract infection, pneumonia, thrombosis, pulmonary congestion and other lung-related problems in patients following major surgery.
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"Studies like this demonstrate that it is critical to study the outcomes and effectiveness of changes in the organization and delivery of health care services," cautioned AHCPR Administrator Dr. John M. Eisenberg. The study's authors agreed, noting that little evaluation has been conducted to determine the effects of hospitals' efforts to cut costs by replacing RNs with less-skilled workers (AHCPR release, 12/4). Nurses represent about 25% of a hospital's labor force and are the biggest contributor to labor costs. In order to add one extra hour of care for post-surgical patients, researchers say, hospitals "typically would have to increase its nurse staffing levels by 17%" (AP/Boston Globe, 12/4).