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    Editor's Memo: Good news




    Good news

    The nursing community got some good news recently. A study funded by the Department of Health & Human Services and conducted by the Harvard University School of Public Health found a strong and consistent relationship between nurse staffing and five outcomes in medical patients ranging from UTIs to lengths of stay. After reviewing data from more than 5 million patient discharges, the researchers found that a higher number of RNs—as well as higher staffing levels for all types of nurses—was associated with a reduction in adverse outcomes. (For more details on the study, see the Professional Update item.)

    As you might expect, the ANA has welcomed this news with open arms. Rita Munley Gallagher, senior policy fellow with the association, described the study as "an independent affirmation" of research the ANA had funded and released last year that found adverse events, similar to those in the HHS study, decreased with higher levels of RN involvement in patient care. Similarly, the Massachusetts Nurses Association applauded the study. The findings couldn't have come at a better time. Legislation is currently pending in Massachusetts that would mandate staffing standards for all healthcare providers based on the needs of patients.

    But what does this mean for the nurse on the floor? The one who, over the years, has watched as the nursing staff has been cut and working conditions have declined.

    Hopefully it will mean an opportunity.

    Nurses have an opportunity to put this research to work for them—to publicize the fact that more nurses mean fewer adverse outcomes, and that means a financial savings for both hospitals and patients. I urge you to take advantage of this opportunity. Print out copies of the study's executive summary from the Internet (http://bhpr.hrsa.gov/dn/staffstudy.htm ) and use it to support arguments for improved nurse-to-patient ratios at your facility. Or incorporate the findings into a letter to your state legislator, urging him or her to act now to improve ratios—and thus the care—in facilities throughout the state. If neither of these options appeals to you, write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper about the staffing situation in your area. (If you're concerned about maintaining your anonymity, request that they not print your name.)

    But whatever you do, don't miss out on this opportunity. Use the HHS study to turn up the heat on legislators and hospital administrators to get more nurses at the bedside. If even a fraction of this country's more than 2 million nurses take action, we'll soon have more good news to celebrate—and so will your patients.



    Marya Ostrowski, ed. Marya Ostrowski. Editor's Memo: Good news. RN 2001;6:7.

    Published in RN Magazine.