Hospital Nurse Staffing and Patient Mortality, Nurse Burnout, and Job Dissatisfaction

ContextThe worsening hospital nurse shortage and recent California legislation
mandating minimum hospital patient-to-nurse ratios demand an understanding
of how nurse staffing levels affect patient outcomes and nurse retention in
hospital practice.ObjectiveTo determine the association between the patient-to-nurse ratio and
patient mortality, failure-to-rescue (deaths following complications) among
surgical patients, and factors related to nurse retention.Design, Setting, and ParticipantsCross-sectional analyses of linked data from 10 184 staff nurses
surveyed, 232 342 general, orthopedic, and vascular surgery patients
discharged from the hospital between April 1, 1998, and November 30, 1999,
and administrative data from 168 nonfederal adult general hospitals in Pennsylvania.Main Outcome MeasuresRisk-adjusted patient mortality and failure-to-rescue within 30 days
of admission, and nurse-reported job dissatisfaction and job-related burnout.ResultsAfter adjusting for patient and hospital characteristics (size, teaching
status, and technology), each additional patient per nurse was associated
with a 7% (odds ratio [OR], 1.07; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.03-1.12)
increase in the likelihood of dying within 30 days of admission and a 7% (OR,
1.07; 95% CI, 1.02-1.11) increase in the odds of failure-to-rescue. After
adjusting for nurse and hospital characteristics, each additional patient
per nurse was associated with a 23% (OR, 1.23; 95% CI, 1.13-1.34) increase
in the odds of burnout and a 15% (OR, 1.15; 95% CI, 1.07-1.25) increase in
the odds of job dissatisfaction.ConclusionsIn hospitals with high patient-to-nurse ratios, surgical patients experience
higher risk-adjusted 30-day mortality and failure-to-rescue rates, and nurses
are more likely to experience burnout and job dissatisfaction.