Study links increased nurse staffing to fewer patient falls

Nurse with patient
Increasing the number of nurses on a ward may reduce patient falls and improve outcomes, a new study has found.

Here's more evidence that nurse staffing makes a difference in patient outcomes. A new study published in BMJ Open shows that increasing the number of nurses on a ward may reduce patient falls and improve outcomes.

The research team, based in the United Kingdom at London South Bank University (LSBU), analyzed more than 120 million patient entries recorded over six years at one National Health Service hospital and compared the information to nine years of staffing data. Researchers found that, in one example scenario, replacing six healthcare support workers with six nurses could reduce the number of monthly falls by 15%, and that a greater number of nurses had a direct impact on the management of patient symptoms like nausea and vomiting.

Patient falls take a toll on elderly patients and come at a heavy cost to hospitals. Standardized fall safety messages and a hospital culture that promotes fall prevention are proven strategies to reduce fall rates, and nurses have lobbied for increased staffing to improve fall prevention.

Alison Leary, a professor at LSBU’s School of Health and Social Care and the study’s lead author, said in an announcement of the findings that the study results should push providers and researchers to take different approaches to improve patient safety.

"We must look at the usefulness of the currently collected data and how it might be used to shape hospital safety,” she said. “This was a very exciting project to work on as it's a different way of thinking about the contribution nurses make to patient safety.”

The researchers note that the study does have a limited set of data provided only by NHS, but concluded that the link between staffing rates and patient safety that they found could provide a base for a mathematical staffing model that would improve outcomes. The techniques used in the study could easily be applied at other hospitals, assuming similar data was available, according to the announcement.