Nursing Satisfaction Impacts Patient Outcomes, Mortality
For a long time, it has been the contention of many in healthcare that there is a correlation between nurse satisfaction and patient outcomes. It makes sense when you think about it – nursing professionals who are work longer shifts in poor conditions and have high numbers of patients to care for are more likely to make an error than those who have more resources and adequate staffing to prevent burnout.
Moreover, there are several bodies of research on the topic that support the notion of "happy nurses, healthier patients." Take a look at some of the key findings that make the case for hospitals and medical institutions to put programs in place to improve the quality of their employee experiences.
Long Shift Work Has Negative Effects
At short-staffed institutions, it’s quite common for nurses to be asked to stay on for a double-shift, but it could be to the detriment of quality patient care. One study sponsored by the National Institute of Nursing Research found that as the proportion of hospital nurses working shifts of more than 13 hours increased, patients’ dissatisfaction with care increased.
In addition, nurses working beyond 10 hours were found to be 2.5 times more likely than nurses working shorter hours to report job dissatisfaction and symptoms of burnout. Nurses often do not administer self-care, thus resulting in high stress. In many situations, this leads to high job turnover for the healthcare institution.
Nursing Staff Sizes Affect Mortality Rates
The number of patients per nurse can have a huge effect on not only the work environment but on how well patients fare. It can even be a matter of life or death, according to research out of the University of Pennsylvania.
The researchers examined statistics from 550 hospitals in California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Florida; this included 25 Kaiser Permanente hospitals in California and 56 Magnet hospitals.
Because magnet hospitals are typically very well run healthcare systems and identified as providing good workplaces for nurses (as per the American Nurses Credentialing Center), there were some clear differences between such institutions and other hospitals.
Part of the research also included nurse surveys, focused on work environment, their level of education, job satisfaction, and the average number of patients they attend to daily. Lastly, the researchers examined the mortality data of each hospital.
The result? Nursing differences were shown to play a large role in mortality rates.
Job Satisfaction Equals Better Patient Care
Anecdotally, it might seem obvious that people who enjoy their work perform better. In the nursing field, that is especially true, and there’s research to support it.
Using data from the American Nurses Association’s National Database of Nursing Quality Indicators, researchers discovered that a 25 percent increase in nurse job enjoyment over a two-year span was linked with an overall quality of care increase between 5 and 20 percent.
Better Work Environment, Fewer Errors
One case study found a direct correlation between employee satisfaction and patient care. When a large military hospital system, with 70 hospitals, had problems retaining its nursing staff, it turned to McKinsey, a global management consulting firm, for help. The firm helped its client discover that nurses were dissatisfied with their working conditions, and felt like there were no career advancement opportunities available.
They were tasked with implementing a number of strategies to help turn things around. With new programs in place, the results were not only great from an employer standpoint but for the patients as well.
There was an increase in patient communication and improvements within a number of quality-of-care indicators. Productivity increased, with the percentage of pain reassessments completed going from 90 percent to 99 percent. The best result, though, was that nurse medication-administration errors decreased by 1.2 per full-time employee per 100 patient days.
While none of these results may seem particularly surprising, they do serve to confirm what most nursing professionals already know – the more support they have from their employers, the better their performance and the higher the quality of care will be.
Hospitals should realize that investing in nursing satisfaction and having adequate staff benefits the hospital, the nurses, and the patients. Making sure their nursing professionals do not reach burnout level by offering opportunities for self-care and keeping schedules manageable is a good start. Providing them with tools, technology, and support staff to help them do their jobs more effectively is equally as important. And finally, as with any career, listening to nurses who wish to advance or use their skills in different ways and providing opportunities for them to do so will help employers retain talent.
In the end, it’s a win-win for everyone.