Law Office of Robert A. Miller
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Fewer patients per nurse can save lives, according to study

Patients in Oregon hospitals rely on medical staff consisting of doctors, nurses, and other personnel to provide care. There is currently a nursing shortage in many parts of the country that is expected to continue as the baby boom generation ages and increases demands on health care workers and facilities. Sometimes nurses may find themselves in a situation in which they have too many individual patients to care for, and a study that has been published in an online medical journal found that the nurse-to-patient ratio may have a direct impact on the mortality rate of patients.

The study found that RNs who were assigned to no more than six patients had significantly lower patient mortality rates than RNs who had 10 or more patients to care for during a shift. In addition, those who were handling higher numbers of patients but who had the assistance of certified nurse aides did not have lower mortality rates than those without assistance. The conclusion drawn by researchers is that the education level of nurses and other caregivers was the most important factor.

The United States has no federal guidelines pertaining to nurse-to-patient ratios, and several states allow individual hospitals to make their own rules. There is debate about the possibility of establishing mandated nurse staffing levels, and the authors of the nurse-to-patient ratio study say that it is difficult to determine specifically what a safe staffing ratio would be.

Hospital rules may not always work in the best interest of patients. When someone is injured or becomes ill due to because of something that happens while in the hospital, it could be a case of hospital negligence. An attorney who handles medical malpractice matters can often provide guidance to a patient who has been harmed in such a manner.

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