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  1. Meyer, Kathleen R. MSN, RN
  2. Fraser, Paulette B. MS, RN-BC
  3. Emeny, Rebecca T. PhD, MPH


OBJECTIVE: To determine a just and consistent practice for creating nursing assignments.


BACKGROUND: Traditional methods of assigning patients to nurses may lead to unbalanced nursing workload. This article describes the ongoing, hospital-wide effort to evaluate and implement a nursing assignment tool based on electronic health record (EHR) functionality and auto-calculated nursing workload scores.


METHODS: EHR records of individual patient workload scores from all hospital units were collected from August 2017 to June 2018. A nurse-specific total workload score was summed for each staff. Then, each hospital unit's mean nurse workload score and standard deviation, along with the unit's nurse-to-patient ratio, were used to calculate levels of high, medium, and low nursing workload measurement (NWM).


RESULTS: Mean patient-specific workload scores varied greatly across hospital units. Unit-specific nurse-to-patient ratios were factored into NWM scores to create ranges for assignments that were relatively consistent across the institution.


CONCLUSION: The use of objective, electronically generated nursing workload scores, combined with traditional nurse-to-patient ratios, provides accurate real-time nurse staffing needs that can inform best practice in staffing. The confirmation of individual patient workload scores and an appreciation for the complexity of EHR vendor rules are necessary for successful implementation. Automation ensures patient safety, staff satisfaction, and optimal resource allocation.