Background: Numerous reports in the popular press express concern about the restructuring or lowering of staffing levels in health care organizations and the impact on the quality of patient care. Overtime and other extended shifts also represent work stresses for health care workers. This article reviews the research literature on the relationships among staffing, organization of work, and patient outcomes, and it discusses research findings on the relationship between staffing and the health of health care workers. RESEARCH ON STAFFING, ORGANIZATION, AND PATIENT OUTCOMES/STAFF WELL-BEING: Safe staffing level requirements have been identified for nursing homes, but only in extremely limited cases for hospitals, home care, or other health settings. There is little information about the impact of staffing levels and the organization of work on health personnel or on patient outcomes. There is almost no information about staffing and patient outcomes in home health and ambulatory care. Much of the research on staffing and quality has been discipline specific; future research should reflect the interdisciplinary nature of health care delivery rather than the impact of a particular occupation.
Research use: Research is conducted to increase the scientific base per se and to inform decision making. Who should decide staffing levels and the organization of work? Professionals, employers/owners, the government, and consumers all have significant interest in staffing levels and the organization of care. Improving health care quality requires research about the critical staffing and organization of work variables. This requires obtaining appropriate data, conducting the research, and widely disseminating the findings.