A lot of research is being done about the value of nurses, brought to the fore recently during the current nursing shortage. There is quantitative proof that fewer fully qualified nurses (i.e. R.N. vs L.P.N) per patient in the hospital (nurse to patient ratio) leads to poorer care and more bad outcomes. This is why I put in my previous blog the importance of having a low (ideally 1:4 or less) nurse to patient ratio on the hospital floor.
Below is an excerpt from the New England Public Policy Center and the Massachusetts Health Policy Forum Research and Reality (google "conreport051.pdf"):
The implications of nurses' working environments on patient safety can be quite serious indeed. Two-thirds of the respondents in a 2003 survey of MNA members believed that insufficient nursing care led to serious medical complications, many of which resulted in patient deaths. Nearly 90 percent of the nurses surveyed felt that they were being forced to care for too many patients...
For example, Jack Needleman, associate professor at UCLA, argued that "given the variety of studies, the robustness, the plausible clinical pathways that have been used to explain these results, [they] go beyond association to causality." Needleman's own research...estimates that switching a nurse's load from the level of the bottom quarter to that of the top quarter of hospitals nationally, a reduction of roughly one patient per nurse - lowers the risk of adverse outcomes such as shock and infection and decreases hospital length of stay by between 3% and 12%.