OBJECTIVES:

In adults, receiving care in a hospital with more baccalaureate-prepared nurses improves outcomes. This relationship is magnified in adults with serious mental illness or cognitive impairment. Whether the same is true in children with and without a mental health condition is unknown. The study purposes were to determine 1) whether the proportion of baccalaureate-prepared nurses affected the odds of readmission in children; and 2) whether this relationship differed for children with a mental health condition.

PATIENTS AND METHODS:

We linked cross-sectional data from the 2016 Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project State Inpatient Databases, the RN4CAST-US nurse survey in Florida, and the American Hospital Association. Inclusion criteria were ages 3 to 21 years. Mental health conditions were defined as psychiatric or developmental/behavioral diagnoses. These were identified using the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Disorders Classification System. We used multivariable, hierarchical logistic regression models to assess the relationship between nurse training and readmissions.

RESULTS:

In 35 081 patients admitted to 122 hospitals with 4440 nurses, 21.0% of patients had a mental health condition and 4.2% had a 7-day readmission. For individuals without a mental health condition, each 10% increase in the proportion of baccalaureate-prepared nurses was associated with 8.0% lower odds of readmission (odds ratio = 0.92, 95% confidence interval = 0.87–0.97). For those with a mental health condition, each 10% increase in the proportion of baccalaureate-prepared nurses was associated with 16.0% lower odds of readmission (odds ratio = 0.84, 95% confidence interval = 0.78–0.91).

CONCLUSIONS:

A higher proportion of baccalaureate-educated nurses is associated with lower odds of readmission for pediatric patients. This association has a larger magnitude in patients with a mental health condition.

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