Purpose: To examine the association of nurse staffing and education with the length of stay of surgical patients in acute care hospitals in South Korea. Design: A cross-sectional survey design was used for a nurse survey in acute hospitals collected between 2008 and 2009. The survey data (N = 1,665) were linked with patient discharge data (N = 113,438) and hospital facility data from 58 hospitals with 100 or more beds in South Korea. Methods: The dependent variable was the length of stay, that is, the number of days a patient remained in the hospital. The independent variables were nurse staffing (number of patients per nurse) and nurses’ education level (percentage of nurses with a bachelor of science in nursing [BSN] degree). A multilevel analysis was used to analyze the associations of nurse staffing and education level with the length of stay by controlling for both hospital and patient characteristics. Findings: The average proportion of nurses with a BSN in all the hospitals was 30.86%, while the average number of patients per nurse was 14.31. The median length of hospital stay for patients was about 7 days. The multilevel analysis showed that nurse staffing and nurse education level were significantly associated with the length of stay of surgical patients in acute care hospitals. A 10% increase in the average number of patients per nurse increased the length of stay by 0.284 days (p =.037). When the number of nurses with a BSN was increased by 1%, the length of stay decreased by 0.42 days (p =.025). Conclusions: Nurse staffing and nurses’ education levels were significantly associated with the length of stay of surgical patients in South Korean hospitals. The findings from this study suggest that the South Korea healthcare system should develop appropriate strategies to improve the nurse staffing and education levels to ensure high-quality patient care in hospitals. Clinical Relevance: Healthcare policymakers and nurse managers need to modify adequate nurse staffing and education levels in order to reduce the length of stay of patients.
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