The Right Analysis Equals the Right Number of Nurses – and the Best Care

Adequate nurse staffing typically results in a variety of benefits such as decreased mortality, reduced medical errors, improved nurse job satisfaction and more, according to the American Nurses Association. 

To arrive at optimal staffing levels, though, requires going well beyond simple mathematical equations. Instead, many variables come into play. According to Barry Chaiken, M.D., Chief Medical Information Officer at Infor, a New York City-based business application software vendor, healthcare organizations need to leverage advanced analytics to understand how staff resources are used in patient care. With such analysis, leaders can come to an in-depth understanding of patient staffing needs, and associated costs – drilling all the way down to the patient procedure level. In addition, using data to get "smart" about nurse staffing can help leaders re-engineer care delivery through nurse and patient centered workflow design, making it possible to ultimately meet patient needs. 

According to Chaiken, by leveraging analytics available through Infor, healthcare organizations can go beyond: 

Simply assigning nurses to an equal number of patients. "By using analytics, we can go beyond the simplistic nurse to patient ratio and start to understand how the acuity of patients has an impact on staffing needs," Chaiken says. 

Simply assuming that each day will bring the same work. Even when nurse staffing is computed on acuity levels, there is still a need for additional analysis. Predictive analytics can be further leveraged to determine the labor needs required for certain patients who are having particular procedures or services delivered on certain days. As such, the labor required to transfer a patient or to prepare a patient for a particular surgery will be accounted for – on a day by day or even shift to shift basis – not merely on a patient acuity basis, according to Chaiken. 

Simply assuming that all nurses bring the same skills to the patient's bedside. Nurses are all trained and qualified – but they do not bring a homogeneous skill set to the patient's bedside. "It is important to understand that nurses' skills vary dramatically. If you truly understand each patient's needs and can match them up with each nurse's specific skill set, then you can create a lot of efficiency, while also improving care. For example, healthcare organizations could take a skill inventory of their nursing staff and then closely match nurses to specific patient needs. It's like putting a puzzle together."

Simply understanding overall costs. "With the right analysis, healthcare organizations can understand the specific labor costs associated with certain treatments, surgeries and services. Think of any other industry and they all know their costs for production. Healthcare needs to do the same. As such, organizations can run more efficiently and succeed under emerging payment models such as value-based care," Chaiken says.