What We're Reading: Hospitals Replacing RNs With Assistants See Rise in Death Rates

What we’re reading, November 18, 2016: a study links higher death rates and negative outcomes to replacing registered nurses with nursing assistants; a pilot test begins in Africa for the first malaria vaccine; and an emergency physicians' group releases a video parodying Cigna’s “TV Doctors” ad.

A European study found that replacing just 1 professional nurse with a nursing assistant per 25 patients was associated with a 21% higher chance of a patient dying. In contrast, hospitals with a higher proportion of professionally qualified nurses demonstrated a significantly lower risk of death, higher levels of patient satisfaction, and lower numbers of negative outcomes, such as falls and bedsores. Study researchers suggested that hospitals trying to cut costs by hiring less qualified staff should reconsider that choice.

The first vaccine against malaria will begin pilot studies in sub-Saharan Africa. The vaccine, which must be delivered in 4 doses, is funded by the World Health Organization (WHO). There is still uncertainty regarding its efficacy, as earlier studies showed it is 39% effective at reducing malaria infections, while another paper suggests that a course of 3 doses merely delays infection instead of preventing it.

The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) has released a video starring real emergency physicians that parodies Cigna’s “TV Doctors” commercial, which features actors known for playing doctors on TV. An accompanying press release explains that the video is meant to highlight Cigna’s unfair coverage for emergency care and accuses the insurance company of having misplaced priorities. “The $9 million Cigna spent on an ad starring well-loved actors playing physicians would have been better spent on patients,” said the president of ACEP, Rebecca Parker, MD, FACEP.