Med Care. 2021 Aug 25. doi: 10.1097/MLR.0000000000001628. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: Evidence indicates hospitals with better registered nurse (RN) staffing have better patient outcomes. Whether involving more nurse practitioners (NPs) in inpatient care produces better outcomes is largely unknown.
OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to determine whether the presence of more NPs produces better inpatient outcomes net of RN staffing.
RESEARCH DESIGN: This was a 2015-2016 cross-sectional data on 579 hospitals linked from: (1) RN4CAST-US nurse surveys; (2) Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) patient surveys; (3) surgical patient discharge abstracts; (4) Medicare Spending per Beneficiary (MSPB) reports; (5) American Hospital Association (AHA) Annual Survey. Hospitals were grouped according to their NP/beds ratios [<1 NP/100 beds (N=132), 1-2.99 NPs/100 beds (N=279), and 3+ NPs/100 beds (N=168)].
SUBJECTS: RNs randomly sampled nurses from licensure lists yielded 22,273 RNs in study hospitals; discharge data for 1.4 million surgical patients; HCAHPS data for 86% of study hospitals.
MEASURES: Mortality, readmissions, lengths of stay, MSPB, patient experience, and quality reported by patients and nurses.
RESULTS: After adjustments, patients in hospitals with 3+ NPs/100 beds had lower odds than patients in hospitals with <1 NP/100 beds of 30-day mortality [odds ratio (OR)2=0.76; 95% confidence interval (CI)=0.67-0.82; P<0.001] and 7-day readmissions (OR2=0.90; 95% CI=0.86-0.96; P<0.001), shorter average length of stay (incident rate ratio2=0.92; 95% CI=0.88-0.96; P<0.001) and 5.4% lower average MSPB (95% CI=3.8%-7.1%). Patients and nurses in the hospitals with higher NP/bed ratios were significantly more likely to report better care quality and safety, and nurses reported lower burnout, higher job satisfaction, greater intentions of staying in their jobs.
CONCLUSIONS: Having more NPs in hospitals has favorable effects on patients, staff nurse satisfaction, and efficiency. NPs add value to existing labor resources.