HealthDay News — Many hospital nurses in Illinois and New York were burned out and working in understaffed conditions immediately prior to the first wave of COVID-19 patients, according to a study published online in BMJ Quality & Safety.

Karen B. Lasater, PhD, RN, from the School of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and colleagues analyzed survey data from nurses and patients in 254 hospitals in New York and Illinois (from Dec. 16, 2019, to Feb. 24, 2020) to evaluate associations between nurse staffing and care quality, patient experiences, and nurse burnout.

The researchers found that mean staffing in medical-surgical units varied from 3.3 to 9.7 patients per nurse, with the worst mean staffing in New York City. In both states, more than half the nurses experienced high burnout. Half of the nurses gave their hospitals unfavorable safety grades, and two-thirds reported they definitely would not recommend their hospital. One-third of patients rated their hospitals less than excellent and reported they definitely would not recommend it to others. In an adjusted analysis, each additional patient per nurse increased the odds of nurses and percent of patients giving unfavorable reports (odds ratio range from 1.15 to 1.52 for nurses on medical-surgical units and from 1.32 to 3.63 for nurses on intensive care units).

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“It is an immense credit to nurses that in such an exhausted and depleted state before the pandemic they were able to reach deep within themselves to stay at the hospital bedside very long hours and save lives during the emergency,” Lasater said in a statement.

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