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Do Your Staffing Levels Impact Patient Safety?

June 23, 2011

Guest blog post by Joe Hyland, Product Marketing Manager at Kronos, Inc.

There have been several studies supporting the theory that patient care suffers as fewer nurses per patient are on staff. The latest study from the New England Journal of Medicine is the first study, however, that found a direct link consistent with what had been a controversial belief (read the article abstract here). When I recently asked my college roommate, who is now a doctor, about this to get his perspective he responded, “adequate nursing staff is arguably more important than physician care.” This is a powerful statement, particularly given the quote’s origin.

A hospital’s most critical charter is quality of care and patient safety. Yet in an industry with razor thin margins and the need to maintain profitability, hospitals simply cannot afford to overstaff nursing units. When you consider that approximately 28% of a hospitals’ workforce are registered nurses (US Dept of Labor Statistics), most of whom are hourly workers, hospitals find themselves walking a fine line of maintaining patient safety while keeping a close eye on costs and profitability.

Hospitals need better insight and predictive tools so they know in advance when they are more likely to need additional staffing – anticipating additional tests during flu season, for example – striking a balance staffing the right number of nurses for fluctuating patient volume. Leading workforce management solutions allow hospitals to understand the impact of their staffing decisions and overtime utilization enabling analysis on the correlation between staffing and risk and quality events, such as falls, pressure ulcers, and medical errors. So if hospitals have the right automation tools in place they can have it all: minimizing risks of negative results while staying on budget.

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