Nurse staffing, burnout, and health care–associated infection


      Each year, nearly 7 million hospitalized patients acquire infections while being treated for other conditions. Nurse staffing has been implicated in the spread of infection within hospitals, yet little evidence is available to explain this association.


      We linked nurse survey data to the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council report on hospital infections and the American Hospital Association Annual Survey. We examined urinary tract and surgical site infection, the most prevalent infections reported and those likely to be acquired on any unit within a hospital. Linear regression was used to estimate the effect of nurse and hospital characteristics on health care–associated infections.


      There was a significant association between patient-to-nurse ratio and urinary tract infection (0.86; P = .02) and surgical site infection (0.93; P = .04). In a multivariate model controlling for patient severity and nurse and hospital characteristics, only nurse burnout remained significantly associated with urinary tract infection (0.82; P = .03) and surgical site infection (1.56; P < .01) infection. Hospitals in which burnout was reduced by 30% had a total of 6,239 fewer infections, for an annual cost saving of up to $68 million.


      We provide a plausible explanation for the association between nurse staffing and health care–associated infections. Reducing burnout in registered nurses is a promising strategy to help control infections in acute care facilities.

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      • Erratum
        American Journal of Infection ControlVol. 40Issue 7
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          In the article “Nurse staffing, burnout, and health care-associated infection” by Cimiotti et al, in the August issue of the American Journal of Infection Control (2012;40:486-90), there is a reporting error in the discussion. The second sentence, in the second paragraph should read, “The average rate of urinary tract infections across hospitals was 9 per 1,000 patients,” not 7 per 1,000 as reported.
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