Objective: To enhance understanding of how nurse staffing relates to unassisted falls by exploring non-linear associations between unassisted fall rates and levels of registered nurse (RN) and non-RN staffing on 5 nursing unit types, thereby enabling managers to improve patient safety by making better-informed decisions about staffing.
Design: Cross-sectional analysis of routinely collected data using hierarchical negative binomial regression.
Setting: 8069 nursing units in 1361 U.S. hospitals participating in the National Database of Nursing Quality Indicators(®). Main outcome measure Rate of unassisted falls per inpatient day.
Results: Associations between unassisted fall rates and nurse staffing varied by unit type. For medical-surgical units, higher RN staffing was weakly associated with lower fall rates. On step-down and medical units, the association between RN staffing and fall rates depended on the level of staffing: At lower staffing levels, the fall rate increased as staffing increased, but at moderate and high staffing levels, the fall rate decreased as staffing increased. Higher levels of non-RN staffing were generally associated with higher fall rates..
Conclusions: Increasing non-RN staffing seems ineffective at preventing unassisted falls. Increasing RN staffing may be effective, depending on the unit type and the current level of staffing.
Keywords: accidental falls; nursing personnel; patient safety; personnel staffing and scheduling.