Higher levels of registered nurse staffing are associated with a lower likelihood of Medicare patients’ dying from sepsis in hospitals, according to a recent study published in JAMA Health Forum. An estimated 1.7 million cases of sepsis occur each year, killing 270,000 annually. Even more concerning is one in three patients who die in the hospital has sepsis, according to the CDC. Not all of those deaths occur because of sepsis, but it’s a contributing factor in nearly all cases.
The vast majority of infections that cause sepsis, however — 87% of them — begin outside the hospital, according to the CDC. The difference between life and death depends on early identification of sepsis and immediate treatment. Registered nurses play a significant role in that process because they have more regular interaction with patients and more opportunities to observe symptoms of sepsis.
Why does this study matter to journalists?: Nurses continue to be an under-appreciated and under-utilized resource for better understanding health care issues. Here are some key takeaways from this study:
- Nurses can play a crucial role in the prevention and treatment of a wide range of conditions.
- Journalists need to include nurses in their source lists when reporting on diseases, hospital-acquired infections, and other conditions that have traditionally involved only quoting physicians.