Study: Hiring more nurses could mean fewer hospital patient deaths

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Hiring more nurses could prevent hospital patient deaths, a new study finds. But the right strategy would have to be chosen or hospitals would wind up losing money, according to researchers.

Investigators examined the effects of three nursing labor strategies. They used data from 799 acute-care hospitals in 11 states. Results appear in the journal, Health Affairs.

Increasing the proportion of nursing hours provided by registered nurses without raising the number of nursing hours would provide the nation's hospitals annual savings of $242 million, the study found. Also increasing the proportion of RN hours to total hours would avert about 5,000 patient deaths.

The second strategy would call for hospitals to increase the total number of nursing hours provided – by RNs or licensed practical nurses (LPNs). The cost to hospitals would total $5.8 billion and there would be 1,800 fewer patient deaths.

The third strategy – having registered nurses provide the bulk of nursing hours and raising the number of nursing hours – would save 6,750 lives but cost hospitals $5.7 billion.