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VOLUME 51 | NUMBER 6.1 | DECEMBER 2016


An Examination of Hospital Nurse Staffing and Patient Experience with Care: Differences between Cross-Sectional and Longitudinal Estimates

Objective: To study the association between hospital nurse staffing and Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) scores.

Data Sources: State hospital financial and utilization reports, Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project State Inpatient Databases, HCAHPS survey, and American Hospital Association Annual Survey of Hospitals.

Study Design: Retrospective study using cross-sectional and longitudinal models to estimate the effect of nurse staffing levels and skill mix on seven HCAHPS measures.

Data Collection/Extraction Methods: Hospital-level data measuring nurse staffing, patient experience, and hospital characteristics from 2009 to 2011 for 341 hospitals (977 hospital years) in California, Maryland, and Nevada.

Principal Findings: Nurse staffing level (i.e., number of licensed practical nurses and registered nurses per 1,000 inpatient days) was significantly and positively associated with all seven HCAHPS measures in cross-sectional models and three of seven measures in longitudinal models. Nursing skill mix (i.e., percentage of all staff who are registered nurses) was significantly and negatively associated with scores on one measure in cross-sectional models and none in longitudinal models.

Conclusions: After controlling for unobserved hospital characteristics, the positive influences of increased nurse staffing levels and skill mix were relatively small in size and limited to a few measures of patients' inpatient experience.

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