Nursing Levels Impact Senior Hospital Readmissions


Anyone who’s been hospitalized quickly learns the value of the skilled nursing staff. Because nurses have such frequent contact with patients in their care, they are essentially the main contact point and lifeline to quality healthcare while you’re in the hospital. For elderly patients, often struck with chronic, multiple, or high-risk health issues, nursing care is particularly critical. According to many studies, nursing is a predominant factor in how well patients recover and in determining if senior patients will be readmitted for further care after discharge.

One of the most important functions of hospital nurses is making sure a patient’s discharge goes smoothly. This includes explaining medications, required outpatient follow-up and other post-hospitalization plans. Because the nursing staff levels have been reduced in recent years with a resulting nurse shortage, there is ongoing concern about quality of care and high readmission numbers. Senior patients needing to be readmitted are often facing life-threatening complications and prolonged recovery times.

Penalties for Readmissions
Hospitals are often penalized by insurance companies when they have very high numbers of readmissions. Those penalties may be more severe under the new Affordable Care Act provisions. A recent study of Medicare patients admitted to the hospital with pneumonia and heart attacks looked at the relationship of readmission of the patients to levels of nursing staff. The research showed that hospitals with higher nurse-to-patient numbers showed a 25% lower rate of being penalized for readmissions.

This is very encouraging news for older adults requiring hospital care. With the incentive of better healthcare outcomes for seniors, combined with the threat of penalties for readmissions, hospitals will undoubtedly be closely watching their nursing staffing levels. Hopefully, more skilled, experienced nurses will be hired by hospitals to accommodate the new insurance guidelines and significantly improve those patient care outcomes.

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