Nurses’ work environments, care rationing, job outcomes, and quality of care on neonatal units


  • Christian M. Rochefort,

    1. Christian M. Rochefort PhD RN CHSRF/CIHR Postdoctoral Fellow Clinical & Health Informatics Research Group, McGill University/McGill University Health Center, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
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  • Sean P. Clarke

    1. Sean P. Clarke PhD RN FAAN RBC Chair in Cardiovascular Nursing Research University of Toronto/University Health Network, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
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C.M. Rochefort: e-mail:


rochefort c.m. & clarke s.p. (2010) Nurses’ work environments, care rationing, job outcomes, and quality of care on neonatal units. Journal of Advanced Nursing66(10), 2213–2224.


Aim.  This paper is a report of a study of the relationship between work environment characteristics and neonatal intensive care unit nurses’ perceptions of care rationing, job outcomes, and quality of care.

Background.  International evidence suggests that attention to work environments might improve nurse recruitment and retention, and the quality of care. However, comparatively little attention has been given to neonatal care, a specialty where patient and nurse outcomes are potentially quite sensitive to problems with staffing and work environments.

Methods.  Over a 6-month period in 2007–2008, a questionnaire containing measures of work environment characteristics, nursing care rationing, job satisfaction, burnout and quality of care was distributed to 553 nurses in all neonatal intensive care units in the province of Quebec (Canada).

Results.  A total of 339 nurses (61·3%) completed questionnaires. Overall, 18·6% were dissatisfied with their job, 35·7% showed high emotional exhaustion, and 19·2% rated the quality of care on their unit as fair or poor. Care activities most frequently rationed because of insufficient time were discharge planning, parental support and teaching, and comfort care. In multivariate analyses, higher work environment ratings were related to lower likelihood of reporting rationing and burnout, and better ratings of quality of care and job satisfaction.

Conclusion.  Additional research on the determinants of nurse outcomes, the quality of patient care, and the impact of rationing of nursing care on patient outcomes in neonatal intensive care units is required. The Neonatal Extent of Work Rationing Instrument appears to be a useful tool for monitoring the extent of rationing of nursing care in neonatal units.