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Improve staffing levels to fight COVID-19 in nursing homes, study suggests

US research says nurse staffing may have more impact than greater infection control measures
A nurse in PPE talking to an elder lady with a face mask. Approximately 27% of US COVID-19 deaths have been nursing home residents. Picture: iStock

US research says nurse staffing may have more impact than greater infection control measures

Improving nurse staffing levels may be more effective than other measures in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes, according to a US study.

Results published in the JAMA Network Open journal reveal that nursing homes found to be high-performing for nurse staffing had fewer COVID-19 cases, suggesting facilities with nurse shortages may be more susceptible to the virus.

Research into COVID-19 nursing home deaths

About 27% of deaths due to COVID-19 in the US have been among nursing home residents, but it was unclear why some facilities had been more successful than others in limiting the spread

US research says nurse staffing may have more impact than greater infection control measures

 iStock
Picture: iStock

Improving nurse staffing levels may be more effective than other measures in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes, according to a US study.

Results published in the JAMA Network Open journal reveal that nursing homes found to be ‘high-performing’ for nurse staffing had fewer COVID-19 cases, suggesting facilities with nurse shortages may be more susceptible to the virus.

Research into COVID-19 nursing home deaths

About 27% of deaths due to COVID-19 in the US have been among nursing home residents, but it was unclear why some facilities had been more successful than others in limiting the spread of infection.

Researchers from Harvard University examined whether nursing homes rated highly by a US federal agency in three areass — health inspections, quality measures and nurse staffing — had lower COVID-19 cases than facilities with lower ratings.

Data from health departments in eight states was used to determine the total number of COVID-19 cases in 4,254 nursing homes from 1 January to 30 June.

Among the 1,517 (35.9%) nursing homes rated high-performing for nurse staffing, there were fewer COVID-19 cases than in those rated low-performing. In contrast, there was no significant difference in the burden of COVID-19 cases between high and low-performing nursing homes for health inspection (such as adequate infection controls) or quality measure ratings (such as avoidable hospitalisations).

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Improve staffing policy to mitigate virus effects

The researchers say their findings suggest improved staffing policies may be more effective than anything else in mitigating the effects of COVID-19.

'These findings suggest that poorly resourced nursing homes with nurse staffing shortages may be more susceptible to the spread of COVID-19,’ the authors wrote.

'Although guidance on best practices on infection control are important, policies that provide immediate staffing support may be more effective at mitigating the spread of COVID-19.'


Related material

Association of Nursing Home Ratings on Health Inspections, Quality of Care, and Nurse Staffing With COVID-19 Cases


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