Nursing activities and factors influential to nurse staffing decision-making

Judith Young, Mikyoung Lee, Laura Prouty Sands, Sara McComb


Objective: There is limited published research supporting the effectiveness of nursing workload measurement to comprehensively measure nursing workload and to formulate nurse resource need. Predictive accuracy is impaired due to variation in direct and indirect care-related activities across measurement instruments. This study aimed to (1) identify common nursing activities considered by nurse managers for staffing decision-making, (2) systematically review such nursing activities in relation to existing nursing workload instruments and Nursing Intervention Classification taxonomy, and (3) describe challenges perceived by managers in staffing decision-making.
Methods: A survey was developed from an inclusive review of 20 nursing workload instruments collectively measuring 502 nursing activities. Nurse managers in 13 medical-surgical and two intensive care units at a Midwest healthcare organization identified nursing activities considered daily for staffing decision-making.
Results: Twenty-one activities were commonly considered by at least 90 percent of managers (n = 13) for daily staffing decisionmaking, although none of the instruments reviewed included all 21 activities.
Conclusions: Lack of a standardized framework for nursing workload measurement might have led to nurse managers’ different perceptions about appropriate determinants of these measurements. A standardized approach for measuring nursing workload would facilitate benchmarking for estimating nurse resource need. Further research is needed to design a systematic infrastructure that ensures staffing to meet patient care need. A process is also needed to alleviate the challenges in staffing decision-making that nurse managers face, such as fluctuations in census and patient acuity, nurse competency-based patient assignments, and limited information resources for staffing estimation.

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Journal of Hospital Administration

ISSN 1927-6990(Print)   ISSN 1927-7008(Online)

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