Hospitals with low nurse staffing levels tend to have higher rates of poor patient outcomes such as pneumonia, shock, cardiac arrest, and urinary tract infections, according to research funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and others. Yet increasing staffing levels is not an easy task. Major factors contributing to lower staffing levels include the needs of today’s higher acuity patients for more care and a nationwide gap between the number of available positions and the number of registered nurses (RNs) qualified and willing to fill them. This is evident from an average vacancy rate of 13 percent. This report summarizes the findings of AHRQ-funded and other research on the relationship of nurse staffing levels to adverse patient outcomes.
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