A new study published in The Lancet today showed that a policy establishing minimum nurse-to-patient staffing ratios in hospitals in Queensland, Australia saved lives, prevented readmissions, shortened hospital stays, and reduced costs.
The study, by the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research (CHOPR) at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, and the Queensland University of Technology School of Nursing, evaluated legislation enacted in 2016 as a safety measure. The new policy limited the average number of patients per nurse to four, similar to pending legislation in New York and Illinois. “The positive results in Queensland should inform policies in the U.S. and elsewhere,” said lead-author Matthew McHugh, PhD, the Independence Chair for Nursing Education and CHOPR Director.
The researchers collected extensive data before and after the legislation from about 17,000 nurses and analyzed of outcomes for more than 400,000 patients. They found that:
McHugh, who is also a Senior Fellow at the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics at Penn, said “These results are all the more relevant in the context of COVID-19, which has pushed an already strained and burned-out hospital nurse workforce to the brink. Minimum safeguards to ensure that there are enough nurses to provide high-quality care to every patient is a simple but effective public safety measure.”
QUT Faculty of Health Executive Dean, Distinguished Professor Patsy Yates, said the publication illustrated the value of research that had real-world impact.
“This research is a clear example of good public health policy in Queensland being derived from evidence-based research,” said Professor. “The result benefits the health system, nurses, patients and the public at large.”
The study was carried out by the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing in partnership with the Queensland University of Technology. Funding and support for the study was from Queensland Health, the National Institute of Nursing Research/NIH, and the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics at the University of Pennsylvania.