An Exploration of Charge Nurse Decision-Making Related to the Nurse-Patient Assignment on Adult Medical-Surgical Inpatient Units

Colin Plover, University of Pennsylvania


Statement of the Problem: In adult inpatient medical-surgical settings, the nurse-patient assignment serves as a strategy to organize the delivery of nurse-patient care. How nurse-patient care is organized through the nurse-patient assignment affects both nurse and patient outcomes, yet no best practice method of developing the nurse-patient assignment exists. Current literature demonstrates limited investigations of charge nurse reflections on their decision-making related to the nurse-patient assignment. Charge nurse perspectives are important because charge nurses drive the decision-making through which patient care is allocated. Despite their integral role, little is known about charge nurse perspectives on the process of the development of the nurse-patient assignment, what factors charge nurses consider and how they consider them when allocating patient care. Procedure and Methods: A qualitative descriptive approach was chosen and a semi-structured interview guide was used to conduct interviews with 18 charge nurses across four medical-surgical units. Attention was paid to the process of patient care allocation through the nurse-patient assignment, the factors which charge nurses found to be the most and least important, and how they prioritize these factors in their decision-making process. Results: The interviews revealed both common and divergent practices with respect to charge nurses’ process of developing the nurse-patient assignment, the factors that they considered, and how they considered these factors when making patient care allocation decisions. These common and divergent practices were identified by themes and sub-themes respectively. Themes identified how all charge nurses described processes of gathering information involving the application of frameworks with shared aims through which they synthesized specific factors in common ways to develop an assignment that aligned with a common constellation of goals. Sub-themes identified variation with respect to where charge nurses sourced their information, the factors they considered, their strategies for considering factors, how they considered factors, factor terminology and their specific goals. Conclusions: The insight this investigation provides into charge nurse development of the nurse-patient assignment has implications for practice environments that include ways to inform research which may serve to improve patient safety, nurse outcomes and the efficiency and cost effectiveness with which patient care is organized and delivered.

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Recommended Citation

Plover, Colin, "An Exploration of Charge Nurse Decision-Making Related to the Nurse-Patient Assignment on Adult Medical-Surgical Inpatient Units" (2017). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI10276151.