Research links increased hospital infections to nurse burnout

September 27, 2012

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year nearly 100,000 hospitalized patients die from infections acquired while undergoing treatment for other conditions. While many factors may contribute to the phenomenon, nurse staffing (i.e., the number of patients assigned to a nurse) has been implicated as a major cause.

A recent study by Dr. Jeannie P. Cimiotti of Rutgers College of Nursing and co-researchers concludes that the degree of "burnout" experienced by nurses could relate directly to the frequency with which patients acquire infections during hospital stays. Focusing exclusively on urinary tract and surgical site infections, the researchers found that while a significant correlation existed between the occurrence of such infections and the number of patients assigned to nurses, became less of a factor after accounting for nurse burnout.

From a sample of 161 acute care hospitals in Pennsylvania and an average of 45 nurses working at each sampled hospital, Cimiotti and her team measured nurse burnout using the Maslach Burnout Inventory-Human Services Survey. According to Maslach's theory, a critical component of burnout in nurses and other is "emotional exhaustion." is associated with emotional and cognitive detachment from work as a mechanism for coping with the demands and responsibilities of the job.

"We hypothesize that the cognitive detachment associated with high levels of burnout may result in inadequate practices and lapses in other infection control procedures among registered nurses," the researchers suggest. The researchers found that every 10 percent increase in burned-out nurses in an increases the rate of by nearly one per 1,000 patients and increases the rate of surgical site infections by more than two per 1,000 patients.

"These findings are both statistically and clinically significant," the researchers posit. "If the proportion of nurses with high burnout could be reduced to 10 percent from the average 30 percent, some 4,160 infections would be prevented …, leading to an estimated savings of $41 million." Not to mention the saving of many lives.

To reduce nurse burnout, the researchers recommend the implementation of organizational changes that effectively build job engagement. Examples include educational interventions, performance feedback, and social support.

This study is quite significant since in represents the first time nurse burnout has been associated with secondary infections. Since its publication in the American Journal of Infection Control (AJIC), AJIC's media tracker has traced more than 42 stories and 223 million impressions to the publication. Articles citing the study have appeared in USA Today, Daily Mail, NBCNews.com, The Philadelphia Inquirer, HealthLeaders Media, WTOP-FM, HealthDay, and Nurse.com, among others.

Explore further: Nurse staffing, burnout linked to hospital infections

Related Stories

Nurse staffing, burnout linked to hospital infections

July 30, 2012
Nurse burnout leads to higher healthcare-associated infection rates (HAIs) and costs hospitals millions of additional dollars annually, according to a study published in the August issue of the American Journal of Infection ...

To keep nurses, improve their work environments

December 8, 2011
Nurses working in hospitals around the world are reporting they are burned out and dissatisfied with their jobs, reported researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing's Center for Health Outcomes and Policy ...

International research finds quality and safety problems in hospitals throughout 13 countries

March 20, 2012
In one of the largest studies of its kind, a consortium of investigators from 13 countries led the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing in the U.S. and the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium in Europe, found that ...

The importance of the team composition in ICUs

August 23, 2011
A higher proportion of female nurses among intensive care teams may decrease individuals' risk of professional burnout, according to Swiss researchers who studied the factors related to burnout in the high-stress setting ...

California nurse staffing

July 15, 2011
In a comprehensive analysis comparing nurse staffing in California hospitals to similar hospitals in the U.S. over nearly a decade, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing have found that controversial ...

Recommended for you

Sugar not so sweet for mental health

July 27, 2017
Sugar may be bad not only for your teeth and your waistline, but also your mental health, claimed a study Thursday that was met with scepticism by other experts.

Could insufficient sleep be adding centimeters to your waistline?

July 27, 2017
Adults in the UK who have poor sleep patterns are more likely to be overweight and obese and have poorer metabolic health, according to a new study.

Vitamin E-deficient embryos are cognitively impaired even after diet improves

July 27, 2017
Zebrafish deficient in vitamin E produce offspring beset by behavioral impairment and metabolic problems, new research at Oregon State University shows.

The role of dosage in assessing risk of hormone therapy for menopause

July 27, 2017
When it comes to assessing the risk of estrogen therapy for menopause, how the therapy is delivered—taking a pill versus wearing a patch on one's skin—doesn't affect risk or benefit, researchers at UCLA and elsewhere ...

Blowing smoke? E-cigarettes might help smokers quit

July 26, 2017
People who used e-cigarettes were more likely to kick the habit than those who didn't, a new study found.

Brain disease seen in most football players in large report

July 25, 2017
Research on 202 former football players found evidence of a brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of them, from athletes in the National Football League, college and even high school.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.