Nurses key to safe patient care

In case you missed two interesting and perhaps connected stories by my colleague Stacey Burling this week, it’s worth taking another look.

On Monday, she wrote about a University of Pennsylvania study that examined the impact of California’s law mandating certain nurse-to-patient ratios in hospitals. The study of 1.1 million patients in 2005 and 2006 found that if New Jersey and Pennsylvania had the same number of nurses mandated by the California law, it could have prevented the deaths of 468 patients over a two-year period.


Linda Aiken, who directs the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research at Penn and led the study, said improved nurse staffing likely could save “many thousands [of lives] a year” nationally. She noted that 18 states, including Pennsylvania, were considering laws mandating nurse staffing levels.

Then in Friday’s paper, Stacey reported that the Pennsylvania State Department of Health has received “a lot” of complaints about Temple University Hospital since 1,500 nurses and other health workers went on strike there March 31. The union representing striking workers has raised concerns that the 850 replacement workers would lower the quality of care.

Check out the Penn study on the impact of California’s nurse-to-patient ratios here.