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Hospital Use of Agency-Employed Supplemental Nurses and Patient Mortality and Failure to Rescue

Objective: To determine the association between the use of agency-employed supplemental registered nurses (SRNs) to staff hospitals and patient mortality and failure to rescue (FTR).

Data Sources: Primary survey data from 40,356 registered nurses in 665 hospitals in four states in 2006 were linked with American Hospital Association and inpatient mortality data from state agencies for approximately 1.3 million patients.

Study Design: Logistic regression models were used to examine the association between SRN use and 30-day in-hospital mortality and FTR, controlling for patient and hospital characteristics, nurse staffing, the proportion of nurses with bachelor's degrees, and quality of the work environment.

Principal Findings: Before controlling for multiple nurse characteristics of hospitals, higher proportions of agency-employed SRNs in hospitals appeared to be associated with higher mortality (OR = 1.06) and FTR (OR = 1.05). Hospitals with higher proportions of SRNs have poorer work environments, however, and the significant relationships between SRNs and mortality outcomes were rendered insignificant when work environments were taken into account.

Conclusions: Higher use of SRNs does not appear to have deleterious consequences for patient mortality and may alleviate nurse staffing problems that could produce higher mortality.