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News Archive 2001 - 2010

Grant Extends Study to Improve Nursing Assignments

December 5, 2005

Industrial Engineering Assistant Professor Jay Rosenberger has received a $130,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to continue his studies to optimize the assignment of nurses’ duties. This is the first major funding by RWJF for UTA College of Engineering researchers.

There is a shortage of experienced nurses across the nation; one way to reduce the burdens placed on nurses is to balance the assigned patient loads. Prior to a nurse’s shift, a charge nurse assigns nurses to patients. Because some patients require more care than others, some imbalances can occur. Eliminating or minimizing these imbalances will enable nurses to meet their patients’ needs and improve care and safety.

Dr. Rosenberger has conducted preliminary on this problem since he arrived at UTA two years ago, using his initial research start-up funds. He is being assisted by Industrial Engineering Associate Professors Victoria Chen and Sheik Imrhan; UTA School of Nursing Clinical Instructor Deborah Green, R.N.C.; and Terese Clark, Director of Health Inform Management at Baylor Regional Medical Center in Grapevine. Baylor Grapevine is participating in the project as a case study; this will be expanded to four Baylor locations and eventually to other hospitals.

Preliminary results suggest that an optimizing assignment schedule can reduce excess workload by as much as 25%. The two-year extension funded by RWJF for this project will enable researchers to further develop the optimization factors, including assignments, evaluations and data mining and simulations to improve the scheduling prototype.

As nurses are assigned more manageable workloads, additional indirect benefits are foreseen:  better patience outcomes as nurses spend more time with critical patients;  reduce malpractice and liability costs (patients receive better care);  higher nurse retention rates and reduced use of expensive temporary nurses.