The effect of nurse staffing patterns on medical errors and nurse burnout

AORN J. 2008 Jun;87(6):1191-204. doi: 10.1016/j.aorn.2008.01.022.


Hospital administrators frequently rely on the use of mandatory or voluntary overtime to cover staff nurse vacancies. This practice is common in the perioperative setting, but it can lead to staff-member fatigue that may adversely affect patient safety. This literature review explores the effect that nurse staffing patterns have on the frequency of medical errors, fatigue, and nurse burnout. The evidence indicates that inadequate nurse staffing leads to adverse patient outcomes and increased nurse burnout. Hospital administrators should invest in adequate nurse staffing to improve patient safety and increase nurse retention.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Burnout, Professional / etiology
  • Burnout, Professional / psychology*
  • Fatigue / complications
  • Hospital Units / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Medical Errors / prevention & control
  • Medical Errors / statistics & numerical data*
  • Nurses / psychology*
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / psychology*
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / standards
  • Personnel Staffing and Scheduling*
  • Quality of Health Care