Readmission risk greater for knee, hip surgery patients when nurses are understaffed

Patients undergoing elective hip and knee surgery are more likely to be readmitted in hospitals where nurses are understaffed, and less likely to return to the hospital if the organizations have supportive nursing environments, new research finds.

Every additional patient in a nurse's workload is associated with an 8 percent increased likelihood of a patient being readmitted within 30 days, most commonly for postoperative infection, according to a research announcement. Nurses are key in preventing infection, the researchers noted.

Meanwhile, patients in hospitals where nurses reported supportive environments such as clinical autonomy and good partnerships with doctors were 12 percent less likely to be readmitted within 30 days of discharge following the surgery.

While only 6 percent of patients were readmitted within 30 days, the study "supports the notion that hospital nurses are fundamental to ensuring high-quality care and outcomes for patients," lead author Karen Lasater, Ph.D., R.N., said in the announcement.

The study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing's Center for Health Outcomes and Policy has been accepted for publication by the International Journal for Quality in Health Care, according to the announcement. Researchers reached their conclusion after analyzing data from more than 112,000 Medicare patients having hip and knee surgery in nearly 500 U.S. hospitals.

Other researchers found that positive nurse work environments also reduced readmissions for heart failure, pneumonia and myocardial infarction, FierceHealthcare recently reported. That research also found that poor work environments can undercut the benefits of higher nurse staffing levels.

To learn more:
- here's the Penn announcement

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