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acuity, classification, patient care, retention, staffing



  1. Harper, Kelle BSN, RN
  2. McCully, Crystal BSN, RN


Obtaining resources for quality patient care is a major responsibility of nurse leaders and requires accurate information in the political world of budgeting. Patient classification systems (PCS) assist nurse managers in controlling cost and improving patient care while appropriately using financial resources. This paper communicates acuity systems development, background, flaws, and components while discussing a few tools currently available. It also disseminates the development of a new acuity tool, the Patient Classification System. The PCS tool, developed in a small rural hospital, uses 5 broad concepts: (1) medications, (2) complicated procedures, (3) education, (4) psychosocial issues, and (5) complicated intravenous medications. These concepts embrace a 4-tiered scale that differentiates significant patient characteristics and assists in staffing measures for equality in patient staffing and improving quality of care and performance. Data obtained through use of the PCS can be used by nurse leaders to effectively and objectively lobby for appropriate patient care resources. Two questionnaires distributed to registered nurses on a medical-surgical unit evaluated the nurses' opinion of the 5 concepts and the importance for establishing patient acuity for in-patient care. Interrater reliability among nurses was 87% with the author's acuity tool.