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Hospital wards not necessarily better with nursing assistants: study

Deploying assistants in nursing to hospital wards doesn’t ensure better outcomes and, in fact, may leave patients worse off, new research has suggested.

The team behind the study, published in the International Journal of Nursing Studies, examined the records of patients who spent time in surgical, medical or rehabilitation wards in metropolitan Perth hospitals between 2006 and 2010.

Researchers from Edith Cowan University's School of Nursing and Midwifery looked at the rates of mortality, failures to rescue, falls, urinary tract infections (UTIs), pressure injuries, pneumonia and sepsis in wards with nursing assistants, compared with those without them.

Lead researcher and dean of the School of Nursing and Midwifery professor Di Twigg said the research team hypothesised that the addition of assistants in nursing would improve patient outcomes, but said they found instead a significant adverse impact on three areas – failures to rescue, UTIs and falls.

The team did, however, find there was an improvement in mortality with the addition of nursing assistants.

Twigg said: "If nursing assistants are to be added to the existing staffing complement, there should be clear implementation guidelines and training in delegation, accountability and teamwork to ensure consistent role utilisation."

Nursing Review sat down with Twigg to discuss the reasons the addition of assistants in nursing failed to translate to better patient outcomes across all measures and what changes can be made to improve upon this.

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