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Keywords:

  • ADT work intensity;
  • nurse staffing;
  • patient churn;
  • unit-level workload

Aim

This analysis compares the staffing implications of three measures of nurse staffing requirements: midnight census, turnover adjustment based on length of stay, and volume of admissions, discharges and transfers.

Background

Midnight census is commonly used to determine registered nurse staffing. Unit-level workload increases with patient churn, the movement of patients in and out of the nursing unit. Failure to account for patient churn in staffing allocation impacts nurse workload and may result in adverse patient outcomes.

Method(s)

Secondary data analysis of unit-level data from 32 hospitals, where nursing units are grouped into three unit-type categories: intensive care, intermediate care, and medical surgical.

Result

Midnight census alone did not account adequately for registered nurse workload intensity associated with patient churn. On average, units were staffed with a mixture of registered nurses and other nursing staff not always to budgeted levels. Adjusting for patient churn increases nurse staffing across all units and shifts.

Conclusion

Use of the discharges and transfers adjustment to midnight census may be useful in adjusting RN staffing on a shift basis to account for patient churn.

Implications for nursing management

Nurse managers should understand the implications to nurse workload of various methods of calculating registered nurse staff requirements.