An Increase in the Number of Nurses with Baccalaureate Degrees is Linked to Lower Rates of Postsurgery Mortality

An Institute of Medicine report has called for registered nurses to achieve higher levels of education, but health care policy-makers and others have limited evidence to support a substantial increase in the number of nurses with baccalaureate degrees.

Using Pennsylvania nurse survey and patient discharge data from 1999 and 2006, the researchers found that a 10-point increase in the percentage of nurses holding a baccalaureate degree in nursing within a hospital was associated with an average reduction of 2.12 deaths for every 1,000 patients—and for a subset of patients with complications, an average reduction of 7.47 deaths per 1,000 patients. The researchers estimate that if all 134 hospitals in our study had increased the percentage of their nurses with baccalaureates by 10 points during the study’s time period, some 500 deaths among general, orthopedic, and vascular surgery patients might have been prevented.

The findings provide support for efforts to increase the production and employment of baccalaureate nurses.