Add to Brochure

How education can boost patient care

February 12, 2015

Education is an important factor for medical settings looking to make improvements to the running of their hospital or clinic. 

By delivering training as part of a comprehensive education programme, organisations are ensuring all staff have the skills and tools necessary to deliver a high standard of care and minimise the risk of them injuring themselves or anyone else.

A recent study highlighted the role of education in helping employees to protect themselves and the patients they treat from harm. It found higher levels of education in nurses, along with controlled staff numbers, could reduce patient mortality.

Supported by the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme and the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR), the findings highlight the impact of not providing enough resources to healthcare departments. 

It is the largest and most detailed analysis to detail patient outcomes linked to nurse staffing and education in Europe. Known as Registered Nurses Forecasting (RN4CAST), the study estimated that, for every patient added to a nurses' workload, the risk of hospital death increases by seven per cent.

The study also found that a better educated nurse workforce could be linked to fewer deaths. For every ten per cent  increase in nurses with bachelor’s degrees, there was an associated drop in the likelihood of death by seven per cent.

Appearing in the Lancet journal, the research examined nearly 500,000 patients from nine European countries who underwent common surgeries and was led by Dr Linda Aiken of the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, and Dr Walter Sermeus of the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium.

Director of NINR Dr Patricia A Grady said: “Building the scientific foundation for clinical practice has long been a crucial goal of nursing research and the work supported by NINR.”

“This study emphasises the role that nurses play in ensuring successful patient outcomes and underscores the need for a well-educated nursing workforce.”

During the research they also surveyed more than 26,500 nurses practicing in study hospitals to analyse their staffing and education levels. The team examined the data and surveys to assess the effects of nursing factors on the likelihood of patients dying within 30 days of hospital admission.

Based on these figures, the researchers estimated that patients in hospitals where 60 per cent of nurses had bachelor’s degrees and cared for an average of six patients were nearly a third less likely to die in the hospital after surgery, compared to those who were in institutions where  only a third of nurses had bachelor’s level education and cared for an average of eight patients each.

“Our study is the first to examine nursing workforce data across multiple European nations and analyse them in relation to objective clinical outcomes, rather than patient or nurse reports,” says Dr Aiken. “Our findings complement studies in the US linking improved hospital nurse staffing and higher education levels with decreased mortality.”

The study highlights the importance of ensuring that staff are appropriately educated when they take up a position, but it's also essential that this period of training continues throughout their career. This means that in areas such as infection control and sharps safety appropriate education is vital for reducing incidents and maintaining a good level of patient care.

Related Clinician and Patient Safety: