The researchers also found that nurses slip up when their workload is heavy. As one of the commenters noted when HealthLeaders covered this study last week, "Could it also be that the reason the nurses are burnt out is that they don't have time to contribute to infection control issues?"
Comparing catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTI) with nurses' patient loads, the researchers found that for each additional patient assigned to a nurse, there was roughly one additional infection per 1,000 patients.
Also, each 10% increase in a hospital's high-burnout nurses corresponded with nearly one additional CAUTI and two additional and surgical site infections (SSI) per 1,000 patients annually.
"We found that increasing a nurse's workload by one patient was associated with increases in both urinary tract and surgical site infections," the authors wrote.
Hospitals that work to decrease nurse burnout can enjoy financial, as well as clinical improvements. The researchers found that in hospitals where burnout was reduced by 30%, there were a total of 6,239 fewer infections, for an annual cost saving of up to $68 million.
The numbers are stacking up and the results are clear: Making sure nurses are satisfied and supported in their jobs is critical, not only for employee retention, but also for patient care, and ultimately for hospital costs.