Objectives: To determine the impact of unit-level nurse staffing on quality of discharge teaching, patient perception of discharge readiness, and postdischarge readmission and emergency department (ED) visits, and cost-benefit of adjustments to unit nurse staffing.
Data sources: Patient questionnaires, electronic medical records, and administrative data for 1,892 medical-surgical patients from 16 nursing units within four acute care hospitals between January and July 2008.
Design: Nested panel data with hospital and unit-level fixed effects and patient and unit-level control variables.
Data collection/extraction: Registered nurse (RN) staffing was recorded monthly in hours-per-patient-day. Patient questionnaires were completed before discharge. Thirty-day readmission and ED use with reimbursement data were obtained by cross-hospital electronic searches.
Principal findings: Higher RN nonovertime staffing decreased odds of readmission (OR=0.56); higher RN overtime staffing increased odds of ED visit (OR=1.70). RN nonovertime staffing reduced ED visits indirectly, via a sequential path through discharge teaching quality and discharge readiness. Cost analysis projected total savings from 1 SD increase in RN nonovertime staffing and decrease in RN overtime of U.S.$11.64 million and U.S.$544,000 annually for the 16 study units.
Conclusions: Postdischarge utilization costs could potentially be reduced by investment in nursing care hours to better prepare patients before hospital discharge.
© Health Research and Educational Trust.