Aim This study aimed to identify and examine predictors of short-term absences of staff nurses working in hospital settings reported in the research literature.
Background Front-line staff nurse absenteeism contributes to discontinuity of patient care, decreased staff morale and is costly to healthcare.
Evaluation A systematic review of studies from 1986 to 2006, obtained through electronic searches of 10 online databases led to inclusion of 16 peer-reviewed research articles. Seventy potential predictors of absenteeism were examined and analysed using content analysis.
Key issue Our findings showed that individual ‘nurses’ prior attendance records’, ‘work attitudes’ (job satisfaction, organizational commitment and work/job involvement) and ‘retention factors’ reduced nurse absenteeism, whereas ‘burnout’ and ‘job stress’ increased absenteeism. Remaining factors examined in the literature did not significantly predict nurse absenteeism.
Conclusions Reasons underlying absenteeism among staff nurses are still poorly understood. Lack of robust theory about nursing absenteeism may underlie the inconsistent results found in this review. Further theory development and research is required to explore the determinants of short-term absenteeism of nurses in acute care hospitals.
Implications for nursing management Work environment factors that increase nurses’ job satisfaction, and reduce burnout and job stress need to be considered in managing staff nurse absenteeism.