Evaluating the effects of supplementing ward nurses on quality of newborn care in Kenyan neonatal units: protocol for a prospective workforce intervention study

BMC Health Serv Res. 2022 Oct 4;22(1):1230. doi: 10.1186/s12913-022-08597-9.


Background: Data from High Income Countries have now linked low nurse staff to patient ratios to poor quality patient care. Adequately staffing hospitals is however still a challenge in resource-constrained Low-middle income countries (LMICs) and poor staff-to-patient ratios are largely taken as a norm. This in part relates to limited evidence on the relationship between staffing and quality of patient care in these settings and also an absence of research on benefits that might occur from improving hospital staff numbers in LMICs. This study will determine the effect on the quality of patient care of prospectively adding extra nursing staff to newborn units in a resource constrained LMIC setting and describe the relationship between staffing and quality of care.

Methods: This prospective workforce intervention study will involve a multi-method approach. We will conduct a before and after study in newborn units of 4 intervention hospitals and a single time-point comparison in 4 non-intervention hospitals to determine if there is a change in the level of missed nursing care, a process measure of the quality of patient care. We will also determine the effect of our intervention on routinely collected quality indicators using interrupted time series analysis. Using three nurse staffing metrics (Total nursing hours, nursing hours per patient day and nursing hours per patient per shift), we will describe the relationship between staffing and the quality of patient care.

Discussion: There is an urgent need for the implementation of staffing policies in resource constrained LMICs that are guided by relevant contextual data. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to evaluate the prospective addition of nursing staff in resource-constrained care settings. Our findings are likely to provide the much-needed evidence for better staffing in these settings.

Trial registration: This study was retrospectively registered in the Pan African Clinical Trial Registry ( https://pactr.samrc.ac.za/Default.aspx?Logout=True ) database on the 10th of June 2022 with a unique identification number-PACTR202206477083141.

Keywords: Health systems strengthening; Human Resources for Health; Missed nursing care; Newborn units; Nursing staff; Quality of care.

MeSH terms

  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Kenya
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital*
  • Personnel Staffing and Scheduling*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Workforce