We know that staffing matters. Studies have shown that hospitals with lower proportions of RNs have higher rates of death overall, death following compli­cations (that is, failure to rescue), and other adverse events. But how do such data on staffing translate into what the average hospital nurse experiences on a shift?

That’s the question posed by Gordon West and colleagues, the authors of this month’s CE, “Staffing Matters—Every Shift.” To address it, they reviewed findings from the Military Nursing Outcomes Database (MilNOD). MilNOD, a quality improve­ment and research project conducted in four phases between 1996 and 2009, encompassed data from 111,500 shifts on 56 inpatient units in 13 U.S. military hospitals. The project explored “the effects of staffing levels and skill mix on the probability of patient falls, medication errors, and needlestick injuries to nursing staff.”

As the authors explain, the MilNOD data showed that the number, mix, and experience of nurses on a shift—not just on a unit—were associated with adverse events for patients and needlestick injuries to nurses. West and colleagues offer several realistic, descriptive scenarios to illustrate the potential effects of staffing changes and to show how such knowledge can be applied to daily decision making.

To learn more, read the article, which is free online.—Sylvia Foley, AJN senior editor

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