A new investigation of nursing home residents found that the nurses who survived were less likely to be on medication and less likely than their non-survivors to be understaffed, a finding that is likely to fuel a push for better care at nursing homes.
The study, published in The American Journal of Nursing Medicine, looked at the survival of 8,906 nursing home patients who were admitted to the facility between October 2015 and October 2017.
Researchers found that patients who had at least two nursing home visits, or two days of care each, were less than twice as likely to have a serious illness compared with patients who did not have those visits.
The results showed that nurses who were in their early 50s or older were much less likely for patients who died than those who were younger, and that nurses with a college degree were more likely to survive than those with a high school diploma or less education.
“It’s an interesting finding, especially for an area that we have a very strong bias in favor of those who are younger and less experienced,” said lead author Dr. Laura Haggard, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota’s College of Nursing and an associate clinical professor of nursing.
Haggart said the study suggests that nursing home staff may be more knowledgeable about how to care for patients and less interested in taking on administrative duties.
She said nurses were also more likely than residents to be involved in the daily lives of their patients, often working in isolation from residents, who may not know how to cope with sudden shifts in patients.
“I think that is a really important finding because it suggests that nurses are more knowledgeable than residents about how the patients will respond to different treatments and different situations,” Haggad said.
“The idea that nursing staff are more interested in caring for their patients is not borne out by the data.”
Researchers found similar results in a study of nursing homes in Pennsylvania.
The findings, published last year in the Journal of the American Nursing Association, showed that nursing homes that had at most two residents were less interested than those that did not.
The nurses, who were also older and had less education, were more often at home for a period of time, were involved in their residents’ care and were more frequently prescribed medication.
“In general, nurses have more of a focus on patients who are in need, and are more willing to take on administrative tasks,” Hoggard said.
Higgard said she would like to see a shift in nursing home policy to reduce the stigma that nurses face in nursing facilities.
“Nurses need to be more accepted in nursing settings, and nurses need to have more confidence that they are not just working for somebody else’s benefit, that they’re not just a tool for the patient,” Higgad said, adding that more nurses should be able to work remotely.
In the study, researchers looked at information on the nurse’s level of education, their experience working with patients, and their experience with other staff members.
They also looked at patients’ symptoms, health status, and the patients’ demographics.
In addition, the researchers looked to see if the nursing home was a long-term care facility, a nursing home with a long history of care, or a community nursing home.
The data they gathered showed that while nursing home care was associated with higher rates of serious illnesses and death, it did not increase the likelihood of survival, the study found.
“We think there are some important lessons that can be learned about how our culture of care impacts the survival and well-being of nursing residents, especially if you are a nurse, but also how the nursing community can contribute to improving outcomes for patients,” Haddar said.
The researchers plan to expand their research into more patient populations and are now working with a different nursing home to look at the effects of other factors.
“There are still some areas of the nursing industry that we can learn from, but this is an important first step,” HADDAR said.