Good nurse work environment means fewer readmissions

A good hospital work environment doesn't just mean happier nurses, it means lower readmission rates.

Medicare patients treated in hospitals with a more favorable nurse work environment were up to 10 percent less likely to come back than those treated in hospitals with a poor work environment, according to a study in the January 2013 issue of Medical Care.

University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing researchers looked at data from more than 200,000 nurses and 412 hospitals in California, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. They found improvements in how hospitals organize and deliver nursing services could lead to lower overall readmissions.

A good work environment for nurses, according to the study, reinforces their autonomy, offers sufficient resources, establishes support and leadership, and gives nurses a greater role in decisions.

The study adds to the growing body of evidence linking nurses' practice environment and staffing levels to quality of care and patient outcomes, lead author Matthew D. McHugh, a health policy expert at Penn Nursing, said Wednesday in a statement.

For instance, an August study in the Journal of Nursing Scholarship showed that when hospitals support nurses, they are more likely to catch medication mistakes.

"Supportive" hospitals are settings where nurses work with doctors as a team, participate in decisions for their unit and for the hospital, and have continuing education opportunities, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

And according to a study published in Health Affairs last month, long work hours for nurses lead to hospital nurse burnout and job dissatisfaction, as well as patient dissatisfaction. The study cautioned against a work culture that "allows nurses to refuse to work overtime without retribution."

For more:
- check out the study abstract
- here's the U Penn announcement