Strong link between understaffing and healthcare association infections: study

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A study conducted by the Columbia University School of Nursing has found an association between nursing understaffing and healthcare associated infections (HAIs), resulting in billions added to healthcare costs annually.

The study, which examined more than 100,000 patients, found that patients were 15% more likely to develop HAIs on or after the third day of exposure to understaffing, as compared to their counterparts in properly staffed wards.

“As they often serve as coordinators within multidisciplinary health care teams, nurses play a critical role in preventing HAIs, which is a top priority for improving quality of care”, said study author Dr Jingjing Shang, an associate professor at Columbia.

“Being at the forefront of infection control and prevention is a unique responsibility and opportunity for nurses, and our study shows that hospitals should ensure adequate nurse staffing to provide the safest patient care.”

Dr Shang also noted that reducing understaffing within nursing teams provided an opportunity to “reduce hospital costs”, noting that the increase in infections and complications caused by understaffing” adds billions to healthcare costs annually.

The study also noted that where units were understaffed, nurses experienced excessive workloads, leading to compromised infection control practices and surveillance activities.

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