How nursing shortages can impact patient safety

In the last three years, nearly one-third of New Jersey nurses have left the profession, leaving healthcare facilities to deal with the patient safety impacts caused by shortages, according to a March 2023 report from New Jersey's largest healthcare worker union, Health Professionals and Allied Employees. 

Nurse understaffing can cause compromises to patient care and safety: a one-patient increase in a nurse's workload increases the likelihood of an inpatient death within 30 days of admission by 7 percent, according to the report. 

Mortality risk decreases by 9 percent for intensive care unit patients and 16 percent for surgery patients with the increase of one full-time registered nurse per patient day. 

Additionally, nurse staffing shortages are a factor in 1 of every 4 unexpected hospital deaths or injuries caused by errors, and a 2021 study showed that each additional sepsis patient per nurse was associated with 19 percent higher odds of in-hospital mortality. 

A recent study of New York hospital data estimated that 4,370 Medicare patient deaths could have been prevented over a two-year period if the state limited nurse-to-patient ratios to 1-to-4.

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