Keeping our patients safe
Sam Foster, Chief Nurse, Oxford University Hospitals, looks at research on the impact of nursing team size and composition on patient mortality in hospitals
Patient safety is the driver that is threaded through all of the current Royal College of Nursing (RCN) communications, and its requests to the UK government to commence discussions concerning nursing pay.
Although it is tempting, I am not planning on writing a political opinion piece about the current debate, or the lack of one, between the RCN and the government. I do, however, feel that there is a critical need for nurses to be aware of the evidence to inform our decisions and actions in relation to nurse staffing levels and the safety of our patients.
When we consider the evidence themes that have been studied in relation to patient safety and the delivery of nursing care, we are typically concerned with nurse-driven outcomes such as harm relating to pressure damage or falls, medication errors or missed care, the ultimate patient safety measure being mortality.
So what is already known? Dall'Ora et al (2022) undertook a systematic review of studies in this area, concluding that:
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