Nurse Staffing and Hospital Ownership in California


Jean Ann Seago, Joanne Spetz, Shannon Mitchell

May. 01, 2004

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study is to describe the relationship between nurse staffing and owner type or specific corporate owner in California acute care hospitals.

BACKGROUND: Little empirical data exist regarding nurse staffing as it relates to owner type or specific corporate owner. With minimum staffing ratios scheduled to be implemented in January 2004, this study provides baseline data for evaluating the impact of minimum staffing ratios in California.

METHODS: The study design is descriptive and cross-sectional. Data used in this study are for short-term general hospitals that reported to the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development database for fiscal years ending in 1997 through 1999. Six regression models were estimated using pooled data from the 3 years of data.

RESULTS: The most consistent significant findings are: increased patient days or patient discharges predict increased registered nurse (RN) hours; lower RN wages predict increased RN hours; higher technology scores predict increased RN hours; and in 1998 there was an across-the-board decrease in RN hours. Other significant findings include that for-profit hospitals and for-profit systems had fewer RN productive hours for medical-surgical nursing, and select corporate owners, unrelated to profit status, had consistently fewer RN productive hours for medical-surgical nursing.

CONCLUSIONS/IMPLICATIONS: For-profit hospitals and systems behaved differently in the healthcare market environment of the late 1990s. Select nonprofit systems were also using significantly less RN staffing. Other findings support the implication that as technology sophistication increases, there will be a need for increased RN hours to manage the advanced technology. This runs counter to the argument that increasing technology will decrease the need for RN hours. Finally, as discharges go up, the need for RN hours increases.

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