Improving hospital nurse staffing is associated with fewer deaths from sepsis

Dec. 29, 2020

According to a new study published in American Journal of Infection Control, improving nurse staffing as proposed in pending legislation in New York state would likely save lives of sepsis patients and save money by reducing the length of hospital stays, released the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing.

Researchers at the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research (CHOPR) at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, conducting independent research on whether pending nurse staffing legislation in New York state is in the public’s interest, found that the wide variation in patient-to-nurse ratios across hospitals in New York is contributing to avoidable deaths for patients with sepsis, a common, high mortality condition.

New York state is a national leader in sepsis care through legislation known as Rory’s Regulations named after a child that unexpectedly died in a New York hospital from sepsis. The new study finds avoided sepsis deaths associated with better hospital nurse staffing are much greater than adherence to mandated sepsis care bundles.

The new study shows each additional patient added to a nurse’s workload is associated with 12percent higher in-hospital mortality from sepsis compared with only a five percent improvement in mortality associated with improved adherence to mandated care bundles.

The study concluded that while Rory’s Regulations and sepsis care bundles helped reduce deaths from sepsis, implementing proposed patient-to-nurse ratios in NY state holds promise for much greater reductions in sepsis deaths.

Lead author Karen Lasater, PhD, RN, an assistant professor and CHOPR researcher said, “Results show that improving nurse staffing in New York hospitals could substantially reduce deaths from sepsis over and above the benefits of mandated care bundles.”

Additionally, the study showed that while hospital adherence to mandated sepsis care bundles is associated with shorter length of hospital stays, improved nurse staffing at the levels in the pending legislation had more than twice as large an effect on reducing length of stay than the care bundles.

Co-author, CHOPR Director Linda H Aiken, PhD, RN, a senior researcher and professor at the University of Pennsylvania said, “This independent scientific study shows that improvement of hospital nurse staffing holds the best promise for significantly reducing deaths from sepsis which often strikes when it is least expected. Moreover, improving nurse staffing results in cost savings in sepsis care due to shorter hospital stays that can be reinvested in improved nurse staffing.”

A 2020 Harris Poll sponsored by found that 90 percent of the public surveyed believed that hospitals should be required to meet safe nurse staffing standards.

University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing has the release.

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