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What Every Nursing School Student Should Know About Hospital Readmissions

Learn how today’s nursing careers are impacted by laws aimed at reducing patient readmissions, and how you can earn your BSN degree online.

Providing the best possible treatment and restoring sick patients to health is a nurse’s objective, and once a patient is better a nurse’s work is done.

But on occasion, a patient who has been discharged from the hospital must soon return for additional care. Minimizing these types of readmissions has become an important objective in healthcare, and many efforts to do so have been successful.

What Every Nursing School Student Should Know About Hospital Readmissions

Learn more about how hospital readmissions impact nursing careers and how today’s online nursing programs can help you earn a degree and make the transition from RN to BSN.

Hospital Readmissions in U.S. Healthcare

When a patient is admitted to an acute care hospital within 30 days of discharge from that same or another acute care hospital, it’s known as readmission. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, in 2011 the United States saw nearly 3.3 million hospital readmissions for adult patients, costing an estimated $41.3 billion in hospital costs.1 Congestive heart failure, septicemia, and pneumonia were the three biggest causes of readmission among patients on Medicare.

In recent years, lowering hospital readmission rates has become a priority in U.S. healthcare. As part of the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program (HRRP) has implemented a pay-for-performance plan that lowers payments to Inpatient Prospective Payment System hospitals with too many readmissions.2 The HRRP tracks Medicare patients readmitted for heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, elective hip and knee replacement, and coronary artery bypass graft.

The HRRP is intended to give hospitals a financial incentive for improving communication and care coordination while working with patients and caregivers on planning for after patient discharge. For today’s medical school and nursing school students, the HRRP places a greater emphasis on learning best practices for providing skilled care for patients.

Nurses make life-saving decisions, so it’s important that those pursuing or furthering their nursing career understand the pivotal role nurses can play in reducing readmissions. Key decisions at patient admission, during the hospital stay, and at discharge that can impact the likelihood of readmission include:

  • Evaluating a patient for potential psycho-social issues, cognitive problems, substance abuse or dependence, and abuse or neglect upon admission.
  • Coordinating care with clinicians, other nurses, and caregivers.
    Keeping patients and their family members involved in a plan of care.
  • Identifying any issues that may call for additional interventions during a hospital stay. 
  • Determining a patient’s readiness for discharge.
  • Involving family and caregivers with post-discharge planning, including the details of a post-discharge plan of care.
  • Following up with phone calls after discharge.  

Readmissions for targeted conditions have declined from 21.5% in 2007 to 17.8% in 2015, and hospitals subject to the HRRP guidelines have seen their readmission rates fall even faster than those hospitals that are not.3

Earn Your Degree and Make the Switch from RN to BSN

If you’re an RN looking into online BSN programs, consider Walden University’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN-BSN) Completion Program.

Earning your bachelor’s can help you advance your nursing skills and open doors to new nursing careers, but going back to school can be difficult. With Walden, you don’t have to take a break from your work as an RN to earn your BSN degree. With online nursing courses and innovative virtual learning tools, Walden stands apart from other online BSN programs and lets you earn a degree at a pace that’s right for you. Walden even offers an RN-BSN Accelerate into Master’s (AIM) program, which allows students to get a jump-start on an advanced degree by earning master’s credits during the bachelor’s program. This ultimately saves students more time and money than earning each degree separately.

If you have an active nursing license and an associate degree or diploma in nursing, you can enroll in the RN to BSN program and transfer up to 75% of credits earned in other nursing programs.

If you’re ready to advance your education and continue to make a positive impact on patients’ lives, find out how you can earn your BSN degree at Walden.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN-BSN) Completion Program online. Expand your career options and earn your degree using a convenient, flexible learning platform that fits your busy life.


Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,