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Keywords:

  • Minimum direct care staffing ratios;
  • quality;
  • nursing homes

Objective. To study the impact of minimum direct care staffing (MDCS) requirements on nurse staffing levels, nurse skill mix, and quality.

Data Sources. U.S. nursing home facility data from the Online Survey Certification and Reporting (OSCAR) System merged with MDCS requirements.

Study Design. Facility-level outcomes of nurse staffing levels, nurse skill mix, and quality measures are regressed on the level of nurse staffing required by MDCS requirements in the prior year and other controls using fixed effect panel regression. Quality measures are care practices, resident outcomes, and regulatory deficiencies.

Data Extraction Method. Analysis used all OSCAR surveys from 1999 to 2004, resulting in 17,552 unique facilities with a total of 94,371 survey observations.

Principle Findings. The effect of MDCS requirements varied with reliance of the nursing home on Medicaid. Higher MDCS requirements increase nurse staffing levels, while their effect on nurse skill mix depends on the reliance of the nursing home on Medicaid. MDCS have mixed effects on care practices but are generally associated with improved resident outcomes and meeting regulatory standards.

Conclusions. MDCS requirements change staffing levels and skill mix, improve certain aspects of quality, but can also lead to use of care practices associated with lower quality.