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High nurse turnover leads to more injuries

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High rates of turnover among registered nursing staff are linked to an increased risk of injury for hospital nurses, according to researchers.

Staff turnover should also be considered a “common predictor” for risk of nurse injuries, the US researchers said in the journal BMJ Quality and Safety.

The study compared nurse injury rates and patient safety incidents with a range of factors linked to working conditions during one year at a 1,900 bed hospital. Around 30 wards and 723 nurses were involved.

The researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Maryland found wards with higher turnover rates had the highest number of nursing injuries – defined as needlesticks, splashes, and slips, trips and falls. Similarly, high rates of nurse turnover were linked to risk of pulmonary embolism/deep vein thrombosis in patients.

The authors said each 10% increase in staff turnover saw a 68% increase in nurse injury.

“This study demonstrates that unit turnover should … be among the working conditions considered as a risk factor for nurse and patient injuries,” they added.

“Higher unit turnover rates may result in a greater proportion of nurses who are new to the unit, and therefore less experienced with the unit’s specific procedures, techniques and equipment, putting nurses at greater risk of injury.”

Royal College of Nursing senior employment relations adviser Kim Sunley warned the problem was exacerbated by hospital trust training budgets “being squeezed” by the need to make savings.

She said the study also built on the 2009 Boorman Review, which found poorer outcomes and poorer patient experience were more likely on wards with high staff turnover rates.

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