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Nurse education may affect quality of care

Readers from South Carolina may be concerned to learn of a recent study that may indicate marked inequalities in the quality of medical care around the nation. According to researchers, inpatient mortality rates can potentially differ by as much as 30 percent depending on factors as seemingly basic as the number of nurses assigned to each patient and the proportion of nurses with bachelor's degrees. Statistics like this could mean that the chances of falling victim to a form of medical malpractice could increase depending on factors that are wholly outside the patient's control.

Moreover, the research also shows that increasing a nurse's responsibility by even one patient can lead to a 7 percent increase in the probability of that patient's death within 30 days of his or her admission to the hospital. The director of the Center for Health Outcomes at Policy Research at the University of Pennsylvania says that physicians and other hospital staff may be more likely to respect and communicate effectively with nurses with college degrees. In addition, she believes that nurses with bachelor's degrees may be more inclined toward critical thinking than those without.

In some hospitals, nurses may be responsible for more patients than they can reasonably be expected to handle. That heightened workload may increase their stress, which in itself can increase the risk of error and patient injury. These factors may be ambiguous and difficult to identity when they happen, for which reason it is not always easy to recognize cases of hospital negligence or general malpractice after they have happened.

If someone believes they or their family member has been a victim of malpractice, they may be eligible to receive compensation from the hospital for the injuries they've suffered. In order to verify the hospital's liability, it may be necessary to review the quality of care provided and the qualifications of the nurses and other staff who provided it.

Source: Reuters, "Nurse numbers, education linked to patient death rate", Allison Bond, March 07, 2014

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