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Nursing Updated November 1, 2022

Study: Travel and Staff Nurse Patient Care Quality Equal

A study offers compelling data about a long-standing question in the healthcare industry: Do travel nurses provide the same quality of patient care compared to staff nurses?

According to the study, which analyzed nursing quality and patient satisfaction indicators, the answer is “yes.”

The research report, based on data from nursing units at a regional hospital in the southern United States, is published in the June 2017 edition of the journal Nurse Leader.

“We found that the varying percentages of travel nurses at five hospital units produced no significant differences in the quality of care or in the patient experience of care,” said co-author Marcia Faller, PhD, RN.

This data helps clinical managers better understand the benefits of travel nursing and travel nurse qualifications, she said.

Quality Unchanged with Increased Travel Nursing

The researchers examined the use of travel nurses over a three-year period at a regional hospital in one of the fastest-growing areas in the country. Quality indicator data was extracted on a quarterly basis between Oct. 1, 2012, and September 30, 2015, from five hospital units: Adult Critical Care, Medical, Oncology, OrthoNeurology, and Surgical.

The travel nurses, all of whom were RNs, were supplied to the hospital from 64 agencies. Use of travel nurses at the hospital ranged from 0%-44% of total nursing hours per unit per quarter and averaged 9%.

Overall, the analysis indicated that quality of care and patient satisfaction did not change when use of travel nurses increased.

“This study adds to a growing body of research showing that contingent nurses provide the same quality of care as staff nurses,” Faller said. “The importance of this research is that it examines actual examples of bedside care over a long period of time in diverse nursing units.”

With care quality and the patient experience among the top priorities in the healthcare industry, the quality of care delivered by travel nurses is critically important, she said. She noted that this is particularly relevant, given that the growing U.S. nursing shortage will necessitate increasing use of travel nurses in hospitals and other healthcare facilities for the foreseeable future.

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