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Patient Classification Systems Address Nurse Staffing Balance

Susan Stone, PhD, RN, and Ruth Plumb, MSN, RN, for HealthLeaders Media, May 24, 2011

Increased nurse awareness and the nurse staffing management system have helped Sharp HealthCare not only weather a weak economy for the past three years, but also post impressive financial results during the same period.

The outreach also gives nurses a clearer view of the economic picture at the facility and enterprise levels, and how their institution compares to local and national peers. Whenever a financial variance occurs in their unit, RNs now can easily pinpoint it and determine the reason why. The software enables Sharp Healthcare to:

  • Deliver accurate patient acuity, skill mix, and census data in real time, ensuring charge nurses and nursing managers have the information necessary to optimize clinical and financial outcomes
  •  Analyze retrospectively whether nursing assignments were a factor in near misses that harmed or placed patients at risk
  • Aggregate information to enhance clinical, financial, and operational decision-making
  • Benchmark internal evidence-based data against national standards for acuity
  • Develop and successfully manage nursing budgets

To further increase time savings for nurses and validity and reliability of data, Sharp HealthCare now is working to integrate the software with its EHR.

With health reform altering reimbursement models and the first of 78 million baby boomers beginning to turn 65 years of age in 2011, staffing, clinical, and financial pressures on providers will only intensify. Since RN labor costs represent providers’ single largest controllable expense and a significant percentage of their operating budget, it is critical to use nursing resources more efficiently and enlist RNs as strategic assets and financially oriented managers. Providers following this path will find it easier to navigate the rapidly changing healthcare ecosystem and meet their goals.


Susan Stone, PhD, RN, is chief nursing officer and Ruth Plumb, MSN, RN, is an acuity nurse specialist at Sharp HealthCare, which comprises four acute care and three specialty hospitals in southwest California.

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