Do Temporary Nurses Affect Patient Satisfaction Levels?
New study shows supplemental nurses and staff nurses have similar impact on patient satisfaction.
By Debra Wood, RN, contributor
Patient satisfaction has taken on greater importance to hospitals, since Medicare has tied it to reimbursement. A new study shows supplemental nurses, including travel nurses, do not negatively affect patient satisfaction. These results are not a surprise to recruiters and other industry experts.
“Patient satisfaction results should be the same; a facility’s utilization of core staff or supplemental staff should be seamless to the patient,” said Teresa Healey, recruitment manager for American Mobile Healthcare, an AMN Healthcare company that leads the travel nurse staffing industry.
As part of a continuing effort to research supplemental nurses’ effect on outcomes and quality of care, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania investigated the relationship between use of supplemental staffing and patient satisfaction. The patient experience and resulting satisfaction scores are of serious interest to hospitals, partly because they have become a factor in Medicare reimbursement.
The team found no “adverse outcomes for patients in hospitals that employ supplemental nurses,” according to Linda Aiken, PhD, FAAN, FRCN, RN, Claire M. Fagin Leadership Professor of Nursing and director of the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing in Philadelphia. Aiken, who was part of the team that published the study in the March 2015 issue of the Journal of Nursing Administration, called the use of supplemental nurses a safe strategy for maintaining adequate nurse staffing.
“This study is great because it shows temporary nurses are not one of the detractors to patient satisfaction,” said Marcia Faller, PhD, RN, chief clinical officer for AMN Healthcare. “The research gives support to the fact it’s not about permanent vs. temporary nurses but about the fit you have with your nurses and how many nurses you have.”
The researchers compared three data sources: a University of Pennsylvania survey of RNs, the American Hospital Association survey of hospitals in the states where the surveyed nurses worked and the federal government’s Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) patient survey.
“This is the only study that I am aware of that looks at the employment of supplemental nurses and patient satisfaction as measured by the national Medicare patient satisfaction survey,” Aiken said.
“This is part of research to debunk the myth that there is some adverse outcomes for patients associated with hospitals choosing to employ supplemental nurses,” Aiken continued. “It’s a program of research to bring evidence to bear in the decision hospitals make about supplemental nurses.”
Previous Aiken research has shown using supplemental nurses does not adversely affect mortality and actually can improve mortality rates.
“AMN always encourages its nurses to do their best, including trying to respond to patients’ needs and to communicate well, which are key issues in patient satisfaction. We are also careful to hire skilled nurses who show a passion for patient care and the ability to help hospitals meet their goals,” Faller said. “Temporary staffing is a solution to many workforce problems.”
Healey said that she feels privileged to represent a number of excellent travel nurses working alongside core staff at various facilities across the United States.
Carolyn Williams, RN, BSN, an American Mobile traveler on assignment at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York, said she tries her best to become part of the team on whatever unit she is assigned. That includes helping to meet patient satisfaction goals, which she defines as a matter of personal pride.
“I have a better day if I have related to my patient and have done a good job for them,” Williams said. “It’s personally a motivating factor.”
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