VON Partners in Study Indicating Better Nursing Resources Could Improve Health Outcomes

New research from Vermont Oxford Network, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, and Rutgers School of Public Health found an insufficient number of nurses and poor work environments are associated with health outcomes of infants born in hospitals that care for disproportionately more black infants.

The article, “Disparities in Perinatal Quality Outcomes for Very Low Birth Weight Infants in Neonatal Intensive Care,” studied more than 8,000 VLBW infants in 98 Vermont Oxford Network member neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) across the country. In the hospitals that serve disproportionately more black infants, infections were 29% more frequent and discharge to home without breast milk was 47% more frequent. The research was published in the interdisciplinary journal Health Services Research.

The research showed that hospitals treating the majority of critically-ill black infants have more nurse understaffing and work environments that are less supportive of excellent nursing practice. These NICU nursing features accounted for a large fraction of health differences across hospitals. The research concluded that improvements in nurse staffing and environments have potential to improve the quality of care for infants who are born in U.S. hospitals that care for disproportionately more black infants.

The interdisciplinary research team was led by Eileen T. Lake, PhD, RN, FAAN, professor of nursing and health policy, and associate director of the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing and Jeannette A. Rogowski , PhD, University Professor in the Department of Health Systems and Policy in the School of Public Health at Rutgers University. The team also included Jeffrey Horbar, MD, chief executive and scientific officer, Vermont Oxford Network and professor of pediatrics, University of Vermont; Michael Kenny, MS, research biostatistician, University of Vermont; Thelma Patrick, PhD, RN, associate professor, the Ohio State University College of Nursing; and Douglas Staiger, PhD, professor of economics, Dartmouth College.

Research reported in this press release was supported by National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) of the National Institutes of Health under award number R01NR010357. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. NIH communicates this requirement to its grantees in the NIH notice of award, and the NIH Grants Policy Statement (Section 8.2.1). This acknowledgement statement also meets Federal regulations that require grantees to acknowledge Federal funding. This study also received funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.