Associations between rationing of nursing care and inpatient mortality in Swiss hospitals

Int J Qual Health Care. 2012 Jun;24(3):230-8. doi: 10.1093/intqhc/mzs009. Epub 2012 Mar 28.


Objective: To explore the relationship between inpatient mortality and implicit rationing of nursing care, the quality of nurse work environments and the patient-to-nurse staffing ratio in Swiss acute care hospitals.

Design: Cross-sectional correlational design.

Setting: Eight Swiss acute care hospitals examined in a survey-based study and 71 comparison institutions.

Participants: A total of 165 862 discharge abstracts from patients treated in the 8 RICH Nursing Study (the Rationing of Nursing Care in Switzerland Study) hospitals and 760 608 discharge abstracts from patients treated in 71 Swiss acute care hospitals offering similar services and maintaining comparable patient volumes to the RICH Nursing hospitals.

Main outcome measures: The dependent variable was inpatient mortality. Logistic regression models were used to estimate the effects of the independent hospital-level measures.

Results: Patients treated in the hospital with the highest rationing level were 51% more likely to die than those in peer institutions (adjusted OR: 1.51, 95% CI: 1.34-1.70). Patients treated in the study hospitals with higher nurse work environment quality ratings had a significantly lower likelihood of death (adjusted OR: 0.80, 95% CI: 0.67-0.97) and those treated in the hospital with the highest measured patient-to-nurse ratio (10:1) had a 37% higher risk of death (adjusted OR: 1.37, 95% CI: 1.24-1.52) than those in comparison institutions.

Conclusions: Measures of rationing may reflect care conditions that place hospital patients at risk of negative outcomes and thus deserve attention in future hospital outcomes research studies.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Health Care Rationing*
  • Hospital Mortality*
  • Hospitals / standards
  • Hospitals / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nursing Care / standards
  • Risk Assessment
  • Switzerland
  • Workforce