Hospital Registered Nurse Shortages: Environmental, Patient, and Institutional Predictors


Jean Ann Seago, Michael Ash, Joanne Spetz, Janet M. Coffman, Kevin Grumbach

October 1, 2001

The objective of the study was to examine the characteristics of acute-care hospitals that report registered nurse shortages when a widespread shortage exists and when a widespread shortage is no longer evident. The authors used secondary data from the American Hospital Association's Nursing Personnel Survey from 1990 and 1992. The study population was all acute-care hospitals in the United States. Outcome variables included whether a hospital experienced a shortage in 1990, when many hospitals reported a nursing shortage, or whether a hospital reported a shortage in both 1990 and 1992. Predictor variables included environmental, patient, and institutional characteristics. Associations between predictor and outcome variables were investigated using probit analyses. Location in the South, a high percentage of nonwhite county residents, a high percentage of patients with Medicaid or Medicare as payer, a higher patient acuity, and use of team or functional nursing care delivery consistently predicted hospitals reporting shortages both when there was a widespread shortage and when there was no widespread shortage. Although some characteristics under the direct control of hospitals, such as nursing care delivery model, are associated with their reporting a shortage of nurses, shortage is also strongly associated with broader population characteristics such as minority communities and a public insurance payer mix. Awareness of these broader factors may help inform policies to improve the distribution of nurse supply.

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