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Taking Care of Nurses Means Better Care for Patients

A new study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing showed that patients who are treated in hospitals with good working conditions for nurses had up to a ten percent lower chance of readmission when compared to patients treated in hospitals with poor working conditions for nurses.

Researchers examined data from more than 200,000 nurses and 412 hospitals, looking at readmission rates for medicare patients over 65 who have suffered from a heart attack, heart failure or pneumonia. For hospitals with superior work environments, roughly six percent of patients returned within 30 days, while patients treated in hospitals with inferior working environments returned at rates as high as 16 percent.

The study examined Medicare patients specifically, because hospitals can be penalized for excessive rates of readmission. According to Penn Nursing, preventable readmissions cost Medicare more than $15 billion dollars each year.

“To work effectively, nurses must practice in an environment that reinforces their professional role and autonomy, provides adequate resources, demonstrates consistent and high-quality managerial support and leadership, and includes nursing in institutional decision making,” said Dr. Matthew McHugh, a health policy expert at Penn Nursing.

While improving nursing environments, which often includes having an adequate number of nurses on staff, poses a financial hurdle for many hospitals, the study also suggests that at least some of those costs will be offset by factors such as lower turnover rate, less retraining, improved patient outcomes and lower readmission rates. Regardless, this study confirms what is common sense for many nurses: Providing the best care for the patient, means providing for the caregiver as well.

Funding for the study was provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the National Institute on Nursing Research, the National Institute on Aging, the Frank Morgan Jones Fund and the Penn Institute on Urban Research.

Source: University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing