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The changing skill mix in nursing: considerations for and against different levels of nurse

Authors

  • Elisabeth R. Jacob MEd, GradDipCritCare, DipAppSciNsg, RN, MRCNA,

    PhD candidate, Lecturer, Corresponding author
    1. School of Nursing and Midwifery, Monash University, Gippsland, Victoria, Australia
    • Correspondence

      Elisabeth R. Jacob

      School of Nursing and Midwifery

      Monash University

      Gippsland

      Victoria 3842

      Australia

      E-mail: Elisabeth.jacob@monash.edu

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  • Lisa McKenna PhD, MEdSt, GradDipHealthAdmin&InfoSys, RN, RM, MRCNA,

    Professor
    1. School of Nursing and Midwifery, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia
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  • Angelo D'Amore PhD, GradCertHealthProm, BSc (Hons), BSc

    Senior Lecturer
    1. Department of Rural and Indigenous Health, Monash University, Moe, Victoria, Australia
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Abstract

Aim

To investigate the current literature to gain an understanding of skill mix, why it is being manipulated and how it affects patient care and health-care costs.

Background

Due to workforce shortages, economic constraints and increasing patient acuity, employers are looking at methods of providing patient care whilst maintaining costs. Registered nurses make up a large percentage of the health-care budget. The manipulation of skill mix (i.e. the percentage of registered nurses available for patient care) is seen as one method of managing the increasing cost whilst still ensuring patient care.

Evaluation

Research literature was used to determine the current use of skill mix and its impact on patient care and health-care costs.

Key issue

The use of a higher proportion of registered nurses is associated with better health outcomes, shorter length of stay and reduced patient morbidity.

Conclusion

Economic savings from substituting registered nurses with other health professionals may be offset by increased patient length of stay in hospital and increased patient mortality.

Implications for nursing management

When evaluating nursing skill mix, a higher percentage of registered nurses may result in health-care facility cost savings by providing a shorter length of stay and decreased patient complications.

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