HealthDay News — Nurse understaffing is associated with an increased risk for health care-associated infections (HAIs) among hospitalized patients, according to a study published in the May issue of the Journal of Nursing Administration.

Jingjing Shang, PhD, RN, from the Columbia University School of Nursing in New York City, and colleagues analyzed data from a large urban hospital system (2007 to 2012) to evaluate the association of nurse staffing (2 days before HAI onset) with HAIs. They also evaluated this association when adjusting for individual risks. The study sample included 100,264 patients with 448,826 patient-days from 34 units.

The researchers found that 15% of patient-days had one shift understaffed, defined as staffing <80% of the unit median for a shift, and 6.2% had both day and night shifts understaffed. The hazard rate of HAIs in patients on units with nurse understaffing on both shifts 2 days prior was 15% higher compared with patients staying in units with sufficiently staffed day and night shifts.

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“Being at the forefront of infection control and prevention is a unique responsibility and opportunity for nurses, and our study shows that hospital administrators should ensure adequate nurse staffing to provide the safest patient care,” Shang said in a statement. “This could be achieved through better nurse recruitment and retention practices, together with methods of managing burnout and fatigue.”

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