A study released by the Nursing Times in 2009 suggested a direct correlation between staffing levels of registered nurses and mortality rates in hospitals. The statistics mentioned in the report claimed that when hospitals were understaffed in terms of RNs, the chances of increased patient deaths and significantly lengthened hospital stays rose significantly. In contrast, keeping shifts properly staffed kept those numbers within a normal range.
Until recently there were no further studies giving credence to these claims. Now that has changed with the release of a new study just published in the new England Journal of Medicine, which backs up the 2009 report with very credible numbers. The study looked extensively at data taken from nearly 200,000 patient records at 43 major U.S. hospitals. And what the data showed is considered by some in the medical industry to be alarming. In fact, one of the most striking revelations was the suggestion that mortality rates increased by 2% for every hospital shift that was understaffed of registered nurses.
For example, the average patient profiled in the study was subject to three under staffed shifts during his hospital stay. Such patients showed an increased mortality rate of 6% over those patients who suffered no staff shortages. While 6% doesn't seem like much, it is everything to those patients and their families. If filling vacant registered nurse jobs can reduce mortality rates by 6% it is something that should be done without question.
These two studies have bolstered the argument of nursing advocacy groups who have long claimed that hospitals should not look at their nursing departments in terms of bottom-line costs.
If the presence of a proper number of registered nurses during a shift decreases mortality rates among patients, it should be viewed as a means of improving care and quality of life issues, rather than how much money it costs.
Regardless of how individuals in the medical profession view the recent report, it cannot be denied that hospitals are suffering severe shortages of registered nurses. Nursing programs all over the country are begging for new students and practically giving away the store to get them. Thankfully, the tide has turned to the point where there are almost enough new nurses to replace retiring ones. But the numbers of new nurse recruits still must increase if the majority of vacant registered nurse jobs are to be filled.
Registered nurse jobs are generally the highest-paid and require the most responsibility among all in the nursing profession. A minimum of four years education is normally required, plus a year or two of practical job experience before a registered nurse can earn his or her license.
If nursing is a career you think might be right for you, don't let the educational requirements discourage you from going ahead. Contact a medical facility in your area and ask if they might even be able to direct you to a local nursing program where you can get started.