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KNOXVILLE – A new study of hospital patients and their nursing care shows that hospitals with a greater percentage of registered nurses save more lives.

The study, by researchers from Harvard and Vanderbilt Universities, analyzed millions of patients released from hospitals in 1997.

The University of Tennessee College of Nursing’s associate dean, Dr. Carol Seavor, said it makes sense that more health care providers results in better patient care.

“Anytime our health care agencies can provide a higher level and greater number of professionally-educated nurses,” Seavor said, “then it makes sense that it would be followed by less medical complications, better patient outcomes, and happier workers.”

The health care industry in the U.S. currently has a severe shortage of nurses, with more than 126,000 positions going unfilled. Seavor said this is a strong argument in favor of recruiting more students into the profession.

“The UT College of Nursing is doing everything it can, within the constraints of the resources we have,” Seavor said. “We actually have admitted more students for this fall than we usually do, because we’re trying to respond to the need that’s there.”

Seavor said the college works closely with the University of Tennessee Medical Center, to train graduates with bachelor’s degrees in nursing.

The study showed that hospitals with a larger ration of registered nurses to licensed practical nurses had a better patient recovery rate. The findings were published in the latest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.