The relationship between understaffing of nurses and patient safety in hospitals - A literature review with thematic analysis
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionGlette, M. K., Aase, K., W, S. (2017) The relationship between understaffing of nurses and patient safety in hospitals - A literature review with thematic analysis. Open Journal of Nursing. 2017, 7 1387-1429. 10.4236/ojn.2017.712100
Introduction: Patient safety and the occurrence of adverse events in hospitals is a topic which has been widely addressed over the last decades. In that respect, there has been an increasing interest in the effect of working conditions on patient safety, and whether understaffing and adverse events are correlated. This paper therefore reports results from a study of under- staffing of nurses understood as a lack of nurses available to conduct the tasks required of them. This implies that nurses are forced to ignore or postpone important tasks, thereby compromising patient safety. Purpose: The purpose of the study is to increase the knowledge of understaffing of hospital nurses, and the consequences that understaffing may have on patient safety. Methods: A literature search of the databases Chinal, Medline, Cochrane library, Isi Web of Science and Academic Search premiere was conducted in the period January 2014 to February, 2016. Results: Results are categorized into two main themes and four subthemes. The first main theme describes the direct relationship between understaffing and patient safety. Poor staffing increases the risk of mortality, and adverse conditions such as pressure ulcers, deep vein thrombosis and hospital-related infections. The second main theme relates to the indirect implications of understaffing for patient safety. These implications pertain to the lack of time that nurses could give each patient, limitations in the quality of nursing, and challenges in safe medication administration. Conclusions: The study documents the relationship between understaffing of nurses and adverse events in hospitals, revealingthat understaffing of nurses is a risk factor for hospitalized patients.