Nurse Burnout and Poor Patient Outcomes
The results are in, folks. Nurse burnout negatively impacts patient outcomes. There’s no arguing this fact any more. Our individual and collective burnout has an enormous ripple effect, and we realize that something has to change.
According to a recent study by The Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, for every patient added to a nurse’s workload, there is an average of one additional nosocomial infection for every 1,000 patients.
Also, for every ten percent of nurses who report a high level of burnout, there were one additional urinary catheter infection per 1,000 patients and two additional surgical site infections per 1,000 patients.
These numbers may at first glance not seem overly impressive, but if there is at least one extra avoidable infection for every 1,000 hospitalized patients in the United States, the cumulative cost of those infections is enormous on every level: human, administrative, economic, etc.
When unintended and avoidable infections occur, patients suffer the direct consequences due to prolonged healing, lengthened hospital stays, increased need for rehabilitation, as well as the emotional trauma of elongated hospitalization. Complications from such infections only add insult to injury.
Patients also suffer potential economic consequences when their inability to work and provide income for their families is impacted by lengthened hospitalization and healing, thus unintended infections can have far-reaching consequences indeed.
For the healthcare system and the economy at large, one can only imagine the impact of lengthened stays and prolonged healing. The ripple effect continues.
And What About the Nurses?
For nurses who are burnt out, care can be compromised, mistakes can be made, and unhappiness at work is a constant. Burnout can lead to lateral violence, bullying, as well as nurse attrition, a symptom which only exacerbates the nurse-patient ratios often seen as one of the key ingredients of nurse burnout.
On the bright side, the reduction of burnout can positively impact patient outcomes, and a direct link has been made between issues of staffing, nurse-patient ratios, nurse burnout, and patient outcomes.
The Future is Unwritten
What the healthcare and nursing industries will do with these results remains to be seen. Some facilities will hopefully take these numbers to heart and rectify staffing situations that are rife with problems. Perhaps patient advocacy groups will launch campaigns to target such practices and get behind the notion that combating nurse burnout is in the best interest of all concerned parties.
Nurse burnout is now the subject of great interest and debate. We can only hope that this translates into action and improved outcomes for all.
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