In fact, when the patient-to-nurse ratio increased above 5:1, the odds of patient death increased by 10% per additional patient among blacks, compared to just 3% per additional patient among whites.
"These results suggest that improving the quality of postsurgical outcomes of older patients, particularly older black patients, means putting more nurses on the floor," wrote lead author J. Margo Brooks Carthon, PhD, RN. "Better staffed hospitals are better prepared to meet the more complex needs of older patients, particularly minorities with higher rates of co-existing conditions."
And where to find those additional nurses? Perhaps from groups which, according to the latest National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses, remain underrepresented in the RN population when compared to the general population. For example, the data shows that nurses from minority racial and ethnic groups represent only 16.8% of all nurses. Although only about 65% of the U.S. population is white, non-Hispanic, 83.2% of RNs are white, non-Hispanic.
But there is work going on to bridge this gap.
The University of North Alabama College of Nursing and Allied Health recently received a grant of $2.1 million from the U.S. Department of Health Resources and Services Administration. The $2.1 million grant will support about 67 scholarships for pre-nursing and nursing majors in its first year, and about 80 scholarships by year four.
The grant will help disadvantaged students, particularly underrepresented minorities, enter the school's UNA's new OPEN (Opportunities for Entry Into Nursing) program, which aims to address local and national healthcare needs among disadvantaged and minority populations, as well as an underrepresentation of minorities in the nursing workforce.