• nurse outcomes;
  • nurse staffing level;
  • patient outcomes


This study aimed to evaluate registered nurse staffing levels and outcomes enforced by the current Korean nursing regulations.


Registered nurse staffing levels are closely related to patient and nurse outcomes. Thus, the government's policy regarding nursing staffing has a practical impact, and better policies could lead to more appropriate nurse staffing. The actual evaluation of the government-recommended staffing levels in Korea is paramount for the establishment of a realistic and effective system that promotes quality care and patient safety.


The participating hospital operated under the government-recommended staffing levels (Grade 2 of the Graded Fee of Nursing Management Inpatient System). For unit-level evaluations, one surgical unit was chosen and its staffing level was changed by assigning one additional registered nurse for 6 months. Length of hospitalisation, incidents of death, overtime hours and nursing job performance were measured prior to and after the addition of the extra staff.


After 6 months, the length of patient hospitalisation and registered nurse overtime hours reduced and nurse job performance scores in the unit analysed improved.

Conclusions and implications for nursing management

The results demonstrated that increasing the number of registered nurses beyond the current government-recommended staffing level improves patient and nurse outcomes. This indicates the importance and value of empirically assessing the need for changes in the recommended nurse staffing levels to develop appropriate, realistic and effective policies.