In an effort to reduce the shortage of staff nurses, many facilities hire temporary, or “travel,” nurses to help fill this void -- but is this safe?
A recent study conducted at The University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing concluded that hiring temporary nurses may, in fact, actually save lives.
Researchers examined data from more than 1.3 million patients, and 40,000 nurses, from over 600 hospitals across the US, and supplementing nursing staff shortages “does not appear to have deleterious consequences for patient mortality,” said Linda H. Aiken, PhD, RN, professor of sociology and nursing, and director of the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research (CHOPR).
“Our study showed these nurses could be lifesavers. Hiring temporary nurses can alleviate shortages that could produce higher patient mortality,” said Aiken.
The authors of this study concluded that poor patient outcomes are likely to be the result of poor working conditions within the hospitals themselves, and not associated with the implementation of temporary nursing staff. As Aiken continued:
Hospital executives and managers who employ large numbers of supplemental nurses should evaluate whether deficiencies in work environments in their institutions are adversely impacting the success in attracting and retaining qualified permanent nurses, as well as possibly adversely affecting patient outcomes.
Interestingly, CHOPR research suggests there is a link between increasing a nurse’s workload (greater than four patients), and the potential risk of mortality to the patient. They also note that extending hospital shifts has been associated with nurse burnout. This research confirms what we have suspected all along.
The hiring of temporary nurses to help with staff shortages is often a necessity, but this is merely a band-aid for those hospitals that depend on staffing agencies on an ongoing basis. Hospitals that rely heavily on agency nurses may have a nurse retention issue, and this is more than likely due to the work environment.
Does your cancer center utilize temporary nurses? If so, how often, and are these nurses oncology trained?