October 7th, 2012 8:00am
Nurses who suffer burnout on the job may be associated with serious infections in hospitalized patients. The American Journal of Infection Control reported recently that approximately 7 million hospitalized patients who are in-patients for other medical problems end up with infections that are acquired in the hospital.
A study conducted at Rutgers found a significant association between patient to nurse ratio and urinary tract and surgical site infection. Even with taking into account patients' underlying health and nurse and hospital characteristics, nursing burnout was still significantly associated with these infections. The study also reported that in hospitals that reduced nurse burnout by 30% saw an annual cost savings of nearly $70 million, with over 6000 fewer infections.
Hospital-acquired infections are thought to be largely preventable and are the source of numerous medical malpractice claims. Medicare also considers many infections avoidable and no longer pays hospitals for costs associated with certain infections.
Although one can not conclude from this that a happy nurse equals a healthy patient, this study suggests it may go a long way towards that goal.
More information on Medical Errors and Malpractice.
Virginia Buchanan is a shareholder at Levin, Papantonio. She has served on the Board of Directions of the Florida Bar Foundation and has been Treasurer of ABOTA, Chairperson of the Civil Process Server Grievance Committeee and has been a member of the Chief Judge's Council on Children. She currently is a member of the Women's Caucus of the Florida Justice Association.