Most of us, whether we’re at our doctor’s office for a routine visit or in the hospital, spend more time with nurses than we do with doctors. Therefore, the results of a study of how a good nursing environment at a hospital improves surgical patient outcomes shouldn’t come as a big surprise. However, it’s nonetheless telling.

The study looked at almost 26,000 surgical patients over 65 in hospitals considered to have good nursing environments. It compared their outcomes with a comparable number of people in the same age group in almost 300 hospitals not considered to have good nursing environments. The study controlled for things like race, insurance, type of surgery and severity of illness.

A hospital with a good nursing environment was defined as 1) one in which there were two or more nurses per hospital bed and 2) had been given a Magnet accreditation by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. This accreditation, according to the ANCC, recognizes “health care organizations for quality patient care, nursing excellence and innovations in professional nursing practice.”

The study found that 5.8 percent of patients in hospitals without good nursing environments died within a month of their hospital admission, compared to 4.8 percent of those in hospitals with good nursing environments. When looking at the number who died from complications, the difference was even greater.

It seems only reasonable that patients with a lower nurse-to-bed ratio are going to fare better on average. However, even one of the study’s authors noted, “We didn’t expect to see that big of a difference.”

In a perfect world, we would be able to choose which hospital we go to when the need arises. However, this often isn’t the case. In an emergency, we go to the closest one. Our choice of hospital may also depend on our insurance coverage and where our physician has privileges. We nonetheless have the right to expect the best possible care at any hospital. When that doesn’t occur and someone is harmed as a result, legal recourse may be an option.

Source: Huffington Post, “This Simple Workplace Change Could Improve Surgery Survival Rates,” Andrew M. Seaman, Jan. 24, 2016