When Nurses Aren't Found, Restraints Abound

PHILADELPHIA, Pa-A University of Pennsylvania nursing researcher has found that patient deaths and restraint use may increase during nursing shortages.

A three-year study of older adults with hip fractures showed that restraints to immobilize patients were used more frequently when the nursing staff was low. The restraints were generally used to immobilize those with an increased risk of pressure ulcers, infection, and death.

More than 2,400 elderly patients with hip fractures were monitored in 20 teaching hospitals in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Texas, and Virginia. The research showed that restrained patients were almost three times more likely to die, two-and-a half times more likely to die within 30 days of surgery, and twice as likely to experience trouble walking at the time of hospital discharge.

Researchers recommended avoiding the use of restraints and instead using different technology to subdue patients in need. Hospitals should also fight to maintain a full nursing staff that can provide individualized care for patients with complex needs.