Integrative review: an evaluation of the methods used to explore the relationship between overtime and patient outcomes
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AIMS: To analyse, critically, methods employed to explore the relationship between nursing overtime and patient outcomes to strengthen future research. BACKGROUND: Nursing overtime hours have been increasing in the Western world since the 1980's; however, research detailing its implications for patient outcomes has not kept pace. Studies exploring the relationship between nursing overtime and patient outcomes have produced conflicting results and are deficient in number and rigour. DESIGN: Whittemore and Knafl's revised framework for integrative reviews guided the analysis. DATA SOURCES: A comprehensive multi-step search (1980-2012) of literature related to nursing overtime and patient outcomes in the CINAHL, Medline, PubMED, EMBASE and PsychInfo databases was performed. Reference lists and Google searches were completed for additional sources. Nine research papers met the inclusion criteria. REVIEW METHODS: All nine articles were included in the review. A systematic, iterative approach was used to extract and reduce the data to draw conclusions. RESULTS: There appears to be a positive relationship between nursing overtime and patient outcomes, however, eight of the nine studies revealed limitations in: (1) the definition and measurement of overtime; (2) data aggregation (organizationally and temporally) and (3) recognition or control of potential confounding variables. CONCLUSION: The quality in this research sample limits the ability of this body of work to be the basis of staffing policies. Future researchers need to be explicit in detailing their methods alongside a renewed commitment from administration to develop a tracking system of important parameters at the individual and bedside level.
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