According to a new study, the quality of nursing staff in a pediatric ICU significantly impacts the mortality risk of pediatric patients undergoing surgery.

The study analyzed the effect of nursing education and experience on the outcomes of patients who had undergone pediatric cardiac surgery. Approximately 20,407 pediatric surgery patients, who had been operated on to correct a birth heart defect, were analyzed as part of the study. The results of the study were published recently in the Journal of Nursing Administration. Pediatric cardiac surgery is one of the more common pediatric surgeries, because congenital heart disease is one of the most common birth defects in newborns.The research specifically focused on pediatric surgery, because these surgery patients consume a high portion of hospital resources in the American healthcare system, due to the very specialized critical care requirements necessary.

The researchers found in the study, which included a national sample of 3,400 pediatric critical nurses, that approximately three quarters of these nurses possessed a nursing baccalaureate degree or greater. Approximately 52% of the nurses had a maximum of five years of total nursing experience.

The researchers found in pediatric critical care units, the maximum percentage of registered nurses with a maximum of two years of nursing experience, should be approximately 20%. In other words, when there were more than 20% of registered nurses with less than two years of nursing experience, there was a significantly increased risk of mortality.

Besides, more educated nurses or those with a baccalaureate level or higher degree in nursing were also linked with a reduced risk of death for children undergoing cardiac surgery. The risk of death also seemed to decrease with increase in the percentage of critical care nurses, who had 11 or more years of clinical experience.