Quality Matters: Examining the Impact of Nurse Staffing Challenges on Clinical Outcomes : Journal of Healthcare Management

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Quality Matters: Examining the Impact of Nurse Staffing Challenges on Clinical Outcomes

Polancich, Shea PhD, RN; Miltner, Rebecca PhD, RN; Montgomery, Aoyjai PhD; Dick, Tracey PhD, RN, CNS, COI; Poe, Terri DNP, RN; Brown, Daran; Patrician, Patricia A. PhD, RN, FAAN

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Journal of Healthcare Management 68(3):p 174-186, May/June 2023. | DOI: 10.1097/JHM-D-22-00170



The purpose of this study was to examine nurse staffing while describing the relationships that exist in staffing and quality associated with nursing care during the COVID-19 pandemic, a significantly challenging time for nurse staffing. We examined the relationship between permanent registered nurse (RN) and travel RN staffing during the pandemic and the nursing-sensitive outcomes of catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs), central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs), falls, and hospital-acquired pressure injuries (HAPIs) and length of stay and compared the cost of CAUTIs, CLABSIs, falls, and HAPIs in fiscal years 2021 and 2022.


We used a descriptive, observational design to retrospectively examine permanent nurse staffing volume and CAUTI, CLABSI, HAPI, and fall counts from October 1, 2019, to February 28, 2022, and travel nurse volume for the most current 12 months, April 1, 2021, to March 31, 2022. Descriptive statistics, Pearson correlation, and statistical process control analyses were completed.

Principal Findings: 

Pearson correlation showed a statistically significant, moderately strong negative correlation (r = −0.568, p = .001) between the active registered nurse full-time equivalents (RN FTEs) and average length of stay (ALOS), and a moderately strong positive correlation (r = 0.688, p = .013) between the travel RN FTEs and ALOS. Pearson correlations were not statistically significant, with low to moderate negative correlations for CAUTIs (r = −0.052, p = .786), CLABSIs (r = −0.207, p = .273), and falls (r = −0.056, p = .769). Pearson correlation for active RN and HAPI showed a moderately strong, statistically significant positive correlation (r = 0.499, p = .003). We observed common cause variation in CAUTIs and CLABSIs, with HAPIs and falls showing special cause variation via statistical process control.

Practical Applications: 

Despite the challenges associated with the lack of available nurse staffing accompanied by increasing responsibilities including unlicensed tasks, positive clinical outcomes can be maintained by staff adherence to evidence-based quality improvement.

© 2023 Foundation of the American College of Healthcare Executives

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