Organization of Hospital Nursing and 30-Day Readmissions in Medicare Patients Undergoing Surgery

Med Care. 2015 Jan;53(1):65-70. doi: 10.1097/MLR.0000000000000258.


Background: Growing scrutiny of readmissions has placed hospitals at the center of readmission prevention. Little is known, however, about hospital nursing—a critical organizational component of hospital service system—in relation to readmissions.

Objectives: To determine the relationships between hospital nursing factors—nurse work environment, nurse staffing, and nurse education—and 30-day readmissions among Medicare patients undergoing general, orthopedic, and vascular surgery.

Method and design: We linked Medicare patient discharge data, multistate nurse survey data, and American Hospital Association Annual Survey data. Our sample included 220,914 Medicare surgical patients and 25,082 nurses from 528 hospitals in 4 states (California, Florida, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania). Risk-adjusted robust logistic regressions were used for analyses.

Results: The average 30-day readmission rate was 10% in our sample (general surgery: 11%; orthopedic surgery: 8%; vascular surgery: 12%). Readmission rates varied widely across surgical procedures and could be as high as 26% (upper limb and toe amputation for circulatory system disorders). Each additional patient per nurse increased the odds of readmission by 3% (OR=1.03; 95% CI, 1.00-1.05). Patients cared in hospitals with better nurse work environments had lower odds of readmission (OR=0.97; 95% CI, 0.95-0.99). Administrative support to nursing practice (OR=0.96; 95% CI, 0.94-0.99) and nurse-physician relations (OR=0.97; 95% CI, 0.95-0.99) were 2 main attributes of the work environment that were associated with readmissions.

Conclusions: Better nurse staffing and work environment were significantly associated with 30-day readmission, and can be considered as system-level interventions to reduce readmissions and associated financial penalties.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Education, Nursing / statistics & numerical data
  • Environment
  • Humans
  • Medicare / statistics & numerical data
  • Nurse Administrators / organization & administration
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Patient Readmission / statistics & numerical data*
  • Personnel Staffing and Scheduling / statistics & numerical data*
  • Physician-Nurse Relations
  • Quality of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • United States
  • Workplace / statistics & numerical data