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Press Releases : 2016 Press Releases

Inadequate Nurse Staffing Increases Risk of Preventable Patient Harm

Thursday, September 15, 2016   (0 Comments)
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Leading Nursing Journal Explores Relationship between Nurse Staffing and Childbirth Outcomes


Washington, DCSeptember 8, 2016 – Inadequate nurse staffing can significantly affect the quality of maternal-newborn care that nurses are able to provide during and immediately after childbirth. Inadequate resources, or being short-staffed, can force nurses to prioritize and even ration care, which can potentially place women and infants at risk for preventable harm. 


In 2010, the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) surveyed members about what should be included in perinatal nurse staffing guidelines. A just-released secondary analysis of the data from this survey reveals major themes related to the consequences of inadequate nurse staffing during and after childbirth.  Those themes include missed care, potential for failure to rescue, and job-related stress and dissatisfaction. The results and findings are featured in the July/August 2016 issue of Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing (JOGNN) from AWHONN.  


Women depend on the support of nurses during labor and birth.  When resources are limited, or patient care needs cannot be met by existing staff, nurses may be forced to limit the level of care that is essential to ensure optimal outcomes, according to the analysis of the survey. In certain instances, a woman’s physical needs may be given priority over her emotional or informational needs. For example, supportive care during labor may be minimal, or the provision of discharge information may be rushed or insufficient. Additionally, missed care can result in adverse outcomes, because nurses are not able to carefully identify or monitor changes or deterioration in a woman’s condition in a timely manner.


It is crucial that nurse staffing practices be based on skill sets, the patient population, and system factors to ensure optimal patient outcomes and nurse job satisfaction.  The new study is entitled “Consequences of Inadequate Staffing Include Missed Care, Potential Failure to Rescue, and Job Stress and Dissatisfaction,” by authors Kathleen Rice Simpson, PhD, RNC, CNS-BC, FAAN, Audrey Lyndon, PhD, RNC, FAAN, and Catherine Ruhl, CNM, MS.  The authors analyze the survey responses and conclude that more research is needed to further explore how inadequate nurse staffing influences outcomes for birthing women and their newborns.


“More research is also needed to evaluate the effect of nurse staffing levels on nurses’ job satisfaction and stress,” said AWHONN CEO, Lynn Erdman, MN, RN, FAAN. “AWHONN’s current research on perinatal nurse staffing demonstrates the organization’s commitment to establish evidence about nurse staffing and outcomes.”  




The Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing (JOGNN), is an internationally ranked scientific and technical journal published bimonthly by the Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses. JOGNN is online at



Since 1969, the Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) has been the foremost authority promoting the health of women and newborns and strengthening the nursing profession through the delivery of superior advocacy, research, education, and other professional and clinical resources. AWHONN represents the interests of 350,000 registered nurses working in women's health, obstetric, and neonatal nursing across the United States. Learn more about AWHONN at

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Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses is accredited as a provider of continuing nursing education by the American Nurses Credentialing Center's Commission on Accreditation.

AWHONN is approved by the California Board of Registered Nursing, Provider #CEP580. Accredited status does not imply endorsement by AWHONN or the American Nurses Credentialing Center of any commercial products displayed or discussed in conjunction with educational activities.

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