Nursing & Healthcare News

Do BSNs Save Lives?

Study shows better outcomes, but adequate staffing still a must

There’s yet more research linking a hospital’s percentage of BSN-prepared nurses with better outcomes for There’s yet more research linking a hospital’s percentage of BSN-prepared nurses with better outcomes for in-hospital cardiac arrest patients.

Recognize and Respond

In-hospital cardiac arrest is a severe test for any care team. Inpatients who have heart attacks are usually elderly, often with comorbid conditions that complicate resuscitation. Quick response is essential to keep arrest patients alive and avoid neurological impairment, but many arrests occur during off hours, when staffing levels are lowest.

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In these tough situations, says a new study in Health Affairs, having a better-educated nursing staff makes a real difference. The authors examined data for more than 11,000 patients at 36 hospitals in four states (including California) and found that having more BSN-prepared nurses significantly improved patient outcomes.

A 10-percentage-point increase in a hospital’s number of BSN-prepared nurses improved arrest patients’ odds of surviving to discharge without cerebral impairment by 24 percent. Lead author Jordan Harrison, RN, Ph.D., attributes the difference to the better-educated nurses’ ability “to recognize patient deterioration before cardiac arrest, along with effective response once an arrest has happened.”

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Patient Load

However, even with a well-educated nursing staff, cardiac arrest patients’ chances of surviving to discharge (with or without impairment) remained poor — overall survival rate was only 18.3 percent — and having more BSN-prepared nurses didn’t significantly change that.

What did improve patients’ chances was better staffing. Reducing the average nurse-to-patient ratio by one patient per nurse translated into a 16 percent improvement in arrest patients’ odds of surviving to discharge.


Aaron Severson is a freelance writer, editor, and writing consultant as well as the associate editor of Working Nurse.


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