The qualifications of "supplemental" or temporary nurses such as agency nurses, are the same as or better than those of hospital nurses on staff, according to interim study results announced by leading nurse-researcher Linda Aiken, RN, PhD, FAAN, FRCN. Analyzing data from several large databases, Aiken found that supplemental nurses are:
* younger and more ethnically diverse than permanent staff
* more likely than permanent staff to have a bachelor of nursing degree or higher
* more likely to practice in intensive care units, where the nursing shortage is particularly acute.
Aiken undertook the study to determine how supplemental staffing correlates with patient outcomes. Existing research on this issue, although scant, suggests a negative correlation. But Aiken's team has found few negative correlations, and those that do appear are more closely linked to poor working environments than the presence of supplemental staff.
Aiken, a professor and researcher at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, discussed the study's preliminary findings in October at Staffing World 2005, the American Staffing Association's annual conference. She expects to publish the study early this year.