Study credits nurse work environment for better outcomes

Investments in nurse staffing, education and work environments help magnet hospitals achieve better patient outcomes and lower mortality rates, a study in the May issue of Medical Care found.

Surgical mortality was 20 percent lower at magnet hospitals, after adjustments are made for clinical factors, research by the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing showed. Mortality among patients experiencing complications also was lower, by about 12 percent, according to a research announcement. Surgical patients in magnet hospitals also were 14 percent less likely to die in the hospital within 30 days.

Magnet hospitals are recognized for nursing excellence and quality of care, and are generally successful at attracting and retaining nurses, the authors noted. The hospitals have higher proportions of nurses with bachelor's degrees and specialty training and certification than typical hospitals.

"Our findings reinforce that better work environments for nurses are the distinguishing factor between Magnet and non-Magnet hospitals and are key to better patient outcomes," according to the report.

The American Nurses Credentialing Center confers magnet recognition. About 8 percent of U.S. hospitals have status as magnets.

"Magnet recognition likely stimulates positive organizational behavior that improves patient outcomes," lead author Matthew D. McHugh, Ph.D., said in a statement.

A separate study published in the April issue of Medical Care found that payment reform likely strengthens the business case for investing more in nursing care. The study found that the existing business case for nursing investments is probably understated because of "the inability of most studies to capture spillover and long-run dynamic effects, thus causing organizations to forfeit potentially viable nursing investments that may improve long-term financial stability."

Moreover, "fragmentation" in healthcare delivery and payment systems mean financial benefits of nursing investments are seen "outside of the organization incurring the costs," according to the study.

To learn more:
- read the magnet hospital study
- here's the announcement
- check out the business case study

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