BU Health Policy Institute receives grant to study complex patient care, staffing, and cost issues

(Boston) Boston University's Program for Management of Variability in Health Care Delivery has received a $290,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to study nurse staffing and patient care issues in the context of controlling and managing costs while delivering quality health care. Eugene Litvak, Ph.D., professor of Health Care and Operations Management and director of the program, known as the Management of Variability Program (MVP), is principal investigator for the project.

The year-long project will examine the potential for improving care in hospital medical/surgical units by studying the impact of changes to scheduling of elective surgeries to smooth the flow and reduce variation. It will explore variability in hospital patient census, its relationship to service demand variability and its impact on nurse-to-patient staffing ratios, and the amount of care nurses provide at the bedside. This could result in improved patient flow into surgical units and a better environment for nurses caring for patients.

"Taking care of sick people is a very demanding job even when patient demand is stable," Litvak says. "We should not create an additional burden on nurses by subjecting them to artificial swings in the number of patients they are taking care of. Determining a scientific and feasible way of reducing such artificial stresses would also have a significant impact on quality of care, timely access to care, and patient throughput."

The study will be carried out at four participating hospitals, including Vanderbilt University Medical Center and will run through April, 2007.

"The project is particularly important because we will concentrate on better understanding the factors that affect the demand for nurses and whether and how hospitals can better manage the workloads of nurses," said Peter Buerhaus, Ph.D., senior associate dean of research, Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, and co-principal investigator of the

Contact: Kira Edler
Boston University

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