New study links higher educated nurses with lower mortality rates in hospitals


A new study, just released yesterday, that links nurses with higher education degrees with lower mortality rates in hospitals where they provide direct patient care, comes as no surprise to Jeanne M. Novotny, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, dean of the Fairfield University School of Nursing. "This study confirms what we have known for a very long time. It validates the importance of having a highly educated nursing workforce."

Today's health care system, she says, "is very complex and will continue to grow in its complexity. Nurses with baccalaureate degrees are grounded in the sciences and nursing research. They know the processes of care and the interventions that lower mortality rates in patients."

The study, conducted by Dr. Linda Aiken and her colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research, found that in hospitals, a 10 percent increase in the proportion of nurses holding Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees decreased the risk of patient death and failure to rescue by 5 percent. Patient mortality and failure to rescue would climb to 19 percent lower in hospitals where 60 percent of nurses were educated at that level, the study said.

Titled "Educational Levels of Hospital Nurses and Surgical Patient Mortality," and published in this week's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, the study was based on an analysis of the outcomes of 232,342 surgical patients in 168 Pennsylvania hospitals over a 20-month period. The percentage of baccalaureate and higher degree nurses in those hospitals ranged from 0 to 77 percent. Only 11 percent of the hospitals studied had 50 percent of more of their registered nursed at the BSN or higher level.

Dr. Novotny said, "The research of Dr. Aikens and her colleagues is critical to the health and well being of patients across the nation. The public needs to begin to ask hospitals about the educational level of nurses employed."

The study was applauded by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). In a press release issued from their Washington, D.C. office, AACN called it a "landmark study" that "finds that surgical patients have a 'substantial survival advantage' if treated in hospitals with higher proportions of nurses educated at the baccalaureate or higher degree level."

Dr. Novotny has been a consultant with the American Red Cross, the University of Zimbabwe, Yonsei University in Seoul Korea, and has worked on projects in Thailand, Chile, Mexico and Brazil. Her Ph.D. Is from Kent State University, and her BSN and MS are from The Ohio State University.

To arrange an interview with Dr. Novotny, please call Nancy Habetz, director of media relations, (203) 254-4000, ext. 26407; or (203) 451-1725.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on September 24, 2003

Vol. 36, No. 76