Nurse staffing key to higher survival rates of in-hospital cardiac arrest patients

Survival rates for patients who suffer in-hospital cardiac arrest (IHCA) during their hospital stay are often low. Less than 25 percent of these patients live to return home. However, rates can vary significantly from hospital to hospital. 

A report published Thursday in Medical Care said that nurse staffing levels and working conditions in healthcare institutions play a key role in helping patients survive.

"These results add to a large body of literature suggesting that outcomes are better when nurses have a more reasonable workload and work in good hospital work environments," said study author Matthew McHugh, Ph.D, R.N., associate director, Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research, in an announcement about the report. "Improving nurse working conditions holds promise for improving survival following IHCA."

The study was conducted by the  University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. McHugh and fellow researchers compared data on more than 11,000 adults with IHCA between 2005 and 2007. The data came from 75 hospitals in four states. Only 15 percent of IHCA patients survive to leave the hospital.

Although there are medical factors which improve survivability, one factor stood out, according to the study, each extra patient that nurses took on lessened IHCA patients' chances of survival by five percent. Patents cared for in hospitals with poor working conditions saw their odds go down by 15 percent. 

Staffing levels can make a difference in other areas as well. For example, readmissions for pediatric patients are lower at hospitals with fewer patients per nurse. 

Nurses' work environment is not to be discounted as a factor in patient outcomes, however. In some instances, a good work environment can outweigh staffing levels as a factor for patient improvement. 

To learn more:
- read the study announcement
- here's the study abstract