More hospital-acquired infections are reported in patients cared for nurses who are overworked, study finds

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Overworked nurses dealing with heavy patient loads are associated with increases in hospital-acquired infections, say researchers with the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing.

“For each 10 percent jump in the proportion of nurses who logged high levels of burnout, there was roughly one additional catheter-associated urinary tract infection per 1,000 patients and almost two extra surgical site infections per 1,000,” reports JoNel Aleccia for NBC News.

Researchers conducted a survey with 7,000 registered nurses at 161 Pennsylvania hospitals and matched that data with hospital infection rates and characteristics of hospitals nationwide. The study found more than a third of nurses said they feel high levels of burnout. They cared for an average of 5.7 patients each, and “when even one patient was added to that load, the result was an additional 1,351 infections within the hospital population studied,” Aleccia reports.

The study, published in the American Journal of Infection Control, also found cutting down on burnout not only reduces infections but saves money. Cutting it by 30 percent decreased urinary tract infections by 4,000 and surgical site infections by more than 2,200, resulting in a savings of between $28 million and $69 million each year, researchers found.

When it comes to nurse-to-patient ratios, no one seems to be tracking the averages, Aleccia reports. They can range from one nurse for every one or two patients in intensive care units or a one-to-five ratio, as mandated in surgical units in California. (Read more)

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