The association between multi-disciplinary staffing levels and mortality in acute hospitals: a systematic review

Hum Resour Health. 2023 Apr 20;21(1):30. doi: 10.1186/s12960-023-00817-5.


Objectives: Health systems worldwide are faced with the challenge of adequately staffing their hospital services. Much of the current research and subsequent policy has been focusing on nurse staffing and minimum ratios to ensure quality and safety of patient care. Nonetheless, nurses are not the only profession who interact with patients, and, therefore, not the only professional group who has the potential to influence the outcomes of patients while in hospital. We aimed to synthesise the evidence on the relationship between multi-disciplinary staffing levels in hospital including nursing, medical and allied health professionals and the risk of death.

Methods: Systematic review. We searched Embase, Medline, CINAHL, and the Cochrane Library for quantitative or mixed methods studies with a quantitative component exploring the association between multi-disciplinary hospital staffing levels and mortality.

Results: We included 12 studies. Hospitals with more physicians and registered nurses had lower mortality rates. Higher levels of nursing assistants were associated with higher patient mortality. Only two studies included other health professionals, providing scant evidence about their effect.

Conclusions: Pathways for allied health professionals such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists, dietitians, pharmacists, to impact safety and other patient outcomes are plausible and should be explored in future studies.

Keywords: Hospital mortality; Staffing; Workforce.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review
  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Allied Health Personnel
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital*
  • Personnel Staffing and Scheduling
  • Personnel, Hospital
  • Workforce