Does daily nurse staffing match ward workload variability? Three hospitals' experiences

Uri Gabbay*, Michael Bukchin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose - Nurse shortage and rising healthcare resource burdens mean that appropriate workforce use is imperative. This paper aims to evaluate whether daily nursing staffing meets ward workload needs. Design/methodology/approach - Nurse attendance and daily nurses' workload capacity in three hospitals were evaluated. Statistical process control was used to evaluate intra-ward nurse workload capacity and day-to-day variations. Statistical process control is a statistics-based method for process monitoring that uses charts with predefined target measure and control limits. Standardization was performed for inter-ward analysis by converting ward-specific crude measures to ward-specific relative measures by dividing observed/expected. Two charts: Acceptable and tolerable daily nurse workload intensity, were defined. Appropriate staffing indicators were defined as those exceeding predefined rates within acceptable and tolerable limits (50 percent and 80 percent respectively). Findings - A total of 42 percent of the overall days fell within acceptable control limits and 71 percent within tolerable control limits. Appropriate staffing indicators were met in only 33 percent of wards regarding acceptable nurse workload intensity and in only 45 percent of wards regarding tolerable workloads. Research limitations/implications - The study work did not differentiate crude nurse attendance and it did not take into account patient severity since crude bed occupancy was used. Double statistical process control charts and certain staffing indicators were used, which is open to debate. Practical implications - Wards that met appropriate staffing indicators prove the method's feasibility. Wards that did not meet appropriate staffing indicators prove the importance and the need for process evaluations and monitoring. Methods presented for monitoring daily staffing appropriateness are simple to implement either for intra-ward day-to-day variation by using nurse workload capacity statistical process control charts or for inter-ward evaluation using standardized measure of nurse workload intensity. The real challenge will be to develop planning systems and implement corrective interventions such as dynamic and flexible daily staffing, which will face difficulties and barriers. Originality/value - The paper fulfils the need for workforce utilization evaluation. A simple method using available data for daily staffing appropriateness evaluation, which is easy to implement and operate, is presented. The statistical process control method enables intra-ward evaluation, while standardization by converting crude into relative measures enables inter-ward analysis. The staffing indicator definitions enable performance evaluation. This original study uses statistical process control to develop simple standardization methods and applies straightforward statistical tools. This method is not limited to crude measures, rather it uses weighted workload measures such as nursing acuity or weighted nurse level (i.e. grade/band).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)625-641
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Health Care Quality Assurance
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2009


  • Israel
  • Job satisfaction
  • Nursing
  • Resource management
  • Skills
  • Stress


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