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Temporary Nurses May Save Patient Lives During Hospital Shortages, Says New Study

Supplemental nurses could be “lifesavers” during times of critical nurse shortages in U.S. hospitals, according to a new study by University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing researchers.

The study, “Hospital Use of Agency-Employed Supplemental Nurses and Patient Mortality and Failure to Rescue,” examined controlled data from more than 1.3 million patients and 40,000 nurses in more than 600 U.S. hospitals to reach its conclusions. Set to be published in Health Services Research later today, the study was funded in part by the American Staffing Association Foundation.

“Our study showed these nurses could be lifesavers. Hiring temporary nurses can alleviate shortages that could produce higher patient mortality,” says Linda H. Aiken, Ph.D., RN, the lead researcher of the study and a professor of sociology and nursing and director of the University of Pennsylvania Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research.

CHOPR research has long established a link between extending nurse shifts and adding patients to a nurse’s workload to potential risk of patient mortality.

The study also concludes that poor patient outcomes once believed associated with the hiring of supplemental nurses in hospitals are more likely the result of poor working conditions within those hospitals than of the temporary nurses hired to alleviate staff shortages.

“This research underscores the important role that supplemental nurses play in hospitals around the country,” says Richard Wahlquist, president and chief executive officer of the American Staffing Association. “Not only are supplemental nurses just as qualified as permanent nurses, they improve the quality of patient care.”