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Nurse burnout 'leads to higher infection rates'

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Nurse burnout leads to higher healthcare-associated infection rates (HAIs) and costs hospitals millions of pounds, according to a new study.

Published in the August issue of the American Journal of Infection Control, the study looks at the impact of staffing levels and “nurse burnout” on catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTI) and surgical site infections (SSI), two of the most common HAIs.

Researchers at the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing combed through a large quantity of data, including a 2006 survey of more than 7,000 registered nurses from 161 hospitals in Pennsylvania.

The emotional exhaustion subscale from the Maslach Burnout Inventory-Human Services Survey (MBI-HSS) was used by the study’s authors to determine job-related burnout.

The MBI-HSS outlines 22 markers surrounding job-related attitudes into emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation, and personal accomplishment, identifying emotional exhaustion as the key component to burnout syndrome.

More than a third of nurses surveyed received an emotional exhaustion score of 27 or greater, the MBI-HSS definition for healthcare personnel burnout.

The researchers found that for each additional patient assigned to a nurse (5.7 on average), there was roughly one additional infection per 1,000 patients (or 1,351 additional infections per year).

The study underlines the importance of hospitals having support mechanisms for nurses in place, and concludes that “by reducing nurse burnout, we can improve the well-being of nurses while improving the quality of patient care.”


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