• nursing care intensity;
  • personnel staffing and scheduling;
  • patient classification;
  • workload measurement;
  • regression analysis;
  • instrument validation

Background.  RAFAELA is a modern system of patient classification. In the last few years the system has become widely used in Finland and has aroused international interest. It comprises three parts: (1) The Oulu Patient Classification (OPC) instrument and (2) a file on nurse resources. Using these, the daily nursing care intensity, expressed as OPC points per nurse, can be calculated. The existing nursing care intensity can then be compared with the optimal by using the third instrument, (3) the Professional Assessment of Optimal Nursing Care Intensity Level (PAONCIL). This is a daily questionnaire that nurses complete in a 2-month period at intervals every few years. The daily workload is scored from −3 to +3, where zero is the optimal level. The optimal nursing care intensity per nurse is then defined by using linear regression analysis. No expensive time studies are needed.

Aims.  This paper reports on a study which aimed to identify the minimum requirements for determining optimal nursing care intensity that allow the results to be accepted as correct, in terms of: length of the PAONCIL examination period, PAONCIL questionnaire response rate, explanatory power of the regression analysis and mean values of the OPC and PAONCIL instruments.

Design.  The results of analyses of optimal nursing care intensity from 61 wards in eight Finnish hospitals for the period 1997–2001 are presented. The data do not contain any information about the identity of the patients.

Methods.  Linear regression analysis, one-way analysis of variance, t-tests and correlation analysis were used, as well as parameters of distribution of the data.

Results.  The results of the analysis of optimal nursing care intensity can be regarded as reliable if the PAONCIL response rate is above 70%, the period of examination is at least 3–4 weeks, the mean PAONCIL value is below 0·65 and the explanatory power is above 25%.

Conclusion.  On the basis of the RAFAELA system, the optimal nursing care intensity of a ward can be reliably determined. The prerequisites for achieving reliable results were clear and mostly fulfilled. Because a study period shorter than that which has previously been the practice is enough, the use of this system will be easier than before. The credibility and usefulness of the RAFAELA system have thus received considerable additional confirmation.