The Effect of Variations in Nurse Staffing on Patient Length of Stay in the Acute Care Setting
This study examines the relationship between nurse staffing and patient length of stay (LOS). Data were collected on nurses employed and patients admitted to one of four study units located in two Midwest hospitals. Three nursing variables (hours per patient day [HPPD], skill mix, and nursing expertise) were collected through survey and administrative forms. The nursing data were then linked with patient-specific characteristics (deviation from expected LOS) to test the relationship at the patient level of analysis. Average HPPD was a positive predictor of deviation from expected LOS, whereas overall expertise was a negative predictor of deviation from expected LOS. Higher staffing levels may result in patients being discharged sooner than expected. Nurse administrators must consider the quantity as well as quality of staff when determining optimal staffing levels. Unit staffing levels must include nurses who have both experiential and theoretical knowledge in order to achieve optimal patient outcomes.
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