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Getting nurse numbers right cuts risk of healthcare-associated infections, study shows

HAIs more likely on wards where there are too few registered nursing staff

HAIs more likely on wards where there are too few registered nursing staff


Inpatients are at greater risk of urinary tract or other healthcare-associated infections when there are too few nurses on the ward. Picture: iStock

Hospital patients are more likely to develop healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) when there are not enough nurses on shift, a US study found.

The authors said hospital managers can reduce risk of HAIs by ensuring adequate registered nursing staff are on duty.

The research showed patients on units where both day and night shifts were understaffed were 15% more likely to develop urinary tract infections, bloodstream infections or pneumonia within two days, than those on units where there were adequate numbers of nurses.

Having too few support staff, such as nursing assistants, also increased the risk of HAIs.

The study, conducted by Columbia University School of Nursing in New York examined data from more than 100,000 patients in a large urban hospital system between 2007 and 2012.


Sustained understaffing is bad for patient care and for nurses. Picture: iStock

The authors said excessive workloads caused by understaffing meant infection prevention and surveillance of signs and symptoms of infection were compromised. In addition, they said continuous understaffing may harm nurses’ well-being and patient care.

Lead author and Columbia Nursing associate professor Jingjing Shang said: 'Being at the forefront of infection control and prevention is a unique responsibility and opportunity for nurses, and our study shows hospital administrators should ensure adequate nurse staffing to provide the safest patient care.'

The research was published by the Journal of Nursing Administration.


Further information

Nurse Staffing and Healthcare Associated Infection: Unit-level Analysis


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