“Lives would have been saved...” testifies top nurse staffing expert at Health Committee hearing

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 26, 2021
Contact: Carl Ginsburg | carl.ginsburg@nysna.org | 917-405-1060

Dr. Aiken’s Two-Year Research on NYS Hospitals Finds that More than 4,370 Deaths Would Have Been Avoided among Elderly Medicare Patients with Safer Staffing;
Says Safer Staffing Would Have Saved $720 Million


NEW YORK – Dr. Linda H Aiken, PhD, RN, FAAN, testified at the NYS Health Committee budget hearing yesterday about her much-anticipated research on staffing levels in hospitals in New York State, confirming what NYSNA nurses have been saying for too long: there are not enough nurses to carry out their jobs safely.

The Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act calls for nurses to care for no more than 4 patients each on adult medical and surgical units.

Dr. Aiken’s testimony included key points from her two-year peer-reviewed study on nurse staffing prior to the pandemic. Her research found:

  • Variation in nurse staffing is essential in determining whether patients survive a hospital stay. Aiken and co-authors found that each patient reduction in nurses’ workloads was associated with a 13% decrease in patient deaths for elderly patients hospitalized with common surgical and medical conditions.
  • From empirical results, Aiken estimated that had all NYS hospitals staffed at the 4:1 ratio proposed in the pending legislation more than 4,370 deaths would have been avoided just among elderly Medicare patients admitted to hospitals with common surgical and medical reasons during the two years of the study. Many more deaths would have been avoided if all patients who benefit from improved nurse staffing were counted.
  • Across all hospitals in the state, nurses care for on average 6.3 patients each; NYC has the worst staffing, with an average of 6.9 patients each.
  • Savings of a minimum of $720 million would have been achieved over two years because of avoided days of hospital care from shorter lengths of stay and fewer readmissions with better nurse staffing.  Savings could be reinvested in employing more nurses.

Read her full testimony HERE.

Dr. Aiken is the founding director of the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. The Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research is the world’s foremost authority on nurse staffing research. Its research has received the top research awards of the National Academy of Medicine, the Joint Commission that accredits hospitals and healthcare systems, and the International Council of Nurses among others.

The COVID-19 pandemic underscores that safe staffing saves lives in hospitals and nursing homes. A recent report by NY Attorney General Letitia James is the latest evidence that connects safe staffing and positive patient outcomes. The central finding and core recommendation of the AG’s report are that poor staffing was a major factor in the high death toll in nursing homes, and that New York must enact enforceable, minimum staffing standards, or hours of care per resident.

Earlier this month, the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act moved out of the State Assembly Health Committee and is moving ahead to the Codes Committee. It is imperative for the health and safety of New Yorkers that the law be passed this year by the New York State Legislature and signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo.


For more information, visit campaignforpatientsafety.org.


The New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) represents more than 42,000 members in New York State. We are New York’s largest union and professional association for registered nurses. For more information, please visit nysna.org.


The New York State Nurses Association is a union of 42,000 frontline nurses united together for strength at work, our practice, safe staffing, and healthcare for all. We are New York's largest union and professional association for registered nurses.