Study: Better Educated Nurses Improve Survival Rates of Dementia Patients After Surgery

Further evidence has recently been added in support of the claim that patient outcomes improve significantly when nurses are better educated. A major study found that where hospitals employed more nurses with at least a 4-year bachelor’s degree, fewer patients with dementia died after surgery.

The findings clearly showed that in hospitals where more nurses had a BSN or higher, it not only improved post-surgery outcomes for all the patients included in the study, but that it had an even greater effect on survival rates among individuals with Alzheimer’s or related dementias (ADRD). For every 10% increase in the number of nurses with a BSN, there was a 4% reduction in mortality for those without ADRD and a 10% reduction in the case of patients with dementia. Further, with every 10% increase in the number of nurses with a degree the chances of failure to rescue in the event of complications was reduced by 5% for patients without ADRD and 10% for those with dementia.

For every 10% increase in the number of nurses with a BSN, there was a 4% reduction in mortality for those without ADRD and a 10% reduction in the case of patients with dementia.

The study was conducted by the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing and data was collected from over 500 acute care hospitals in four states in the USA. They gathered Information on deaths within 30 days after surgery among more than 350,000 patients who were over 65 years of age – with or without Alzheimer’s or related dementias (ADRD). The researchers reported that 12,269 (3.5%) of these patients had died within 30 days of surgery. Those with dementia represented 8% of the deaths, compared to less than 3% of those without. This confirmed the findings of previous studies, such as the one done at the University of Stirling in Scotland, which showed that patients with dementia had worse outcomes in hospitals, with higher rates of deaths and readmissions than those without cognitive disorders.

As the population ages, there will be more-and-more frail and cognitively impaired patients. Elizabeth White, the lead researcher of the study, said that the findings suggested that comprehensive nursing care is important in reducing the risks faced by these patients and that better education improves nurses’ ability to manage their more complex needs.

“Patients with dementia are clinically complex and vulnerable, and nurses play a key role in monitoring and protecting these individuals from unwanted complications,” explained White. “To do this, nurses must be able to think critically, problem solve, and work well within interdisciplinary teams. These are all competencies emphasized in bachelor degree nursing programs.”