Supplemental Nurse Staffing in Hospitals and Quality of Care

OBJECTIVE: To promote evidence-based decision making regarding hospital staffing, the authors examined the characteristics of supplemental nurses, as well as the relationship of supplemental staff to nurse outcomes and adverse events. BACKGROUND: The use of supplemental nurses to bolster permanent nursing staff in hospitals is widespread but controversial. Quality concerns have been raised regarding the use of supplemental staff. METHODS: Data from the 2000 National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses were used to determine whether the qualifications of supplemental nurses working in hospitals differed from permanent staff nurses. Data from Pennsylvania nurse surveys were analyzed to examine whether nurse outcomes and adverse events differed in hospitals with varying proportions of nonpermanent nurses. RESULTS: Temporary nurses have qualifications similar to permanent staff nurses. Deficits in patient care environments in hospitals employing more temporary nurses explain the association between poorer quality and temporary nurses. CONCLUSION: Negative perceptions of temporary nurses may be unfounded.