Journal Article

Supplemental nurse staffing in hospitals and quality of care.

Aiken LH; Xue Y; Clarke SP; Sloane DM.

Many hospitals address the nursing shortage by employing supplemental or “temporary” nurses. As temporary nurses may be less familiar with hospital procedures, the concern has been raised that excessive use of temporary nurses may affect patient safety. In this study, researchers sought to characterize the qualifications of temporary nurses and analyze the effect of increased use of temporary nurses on nurse-reported perceptions of patient safety and quality of care. The authors found that inadequate overall nurse staffing correlated with worsened perception of patient safety (as documented in prior research), but the proportion of temporary nurses did not. Temporary nurses were also equally qualified compared with permanent nurses. The authors conclude that many hospitals likely use temporary nurses to ameliorate overall nursing shortages, and that use of temporary nurses alone does not appear to affect patient safety.