Intensive care nurse staffing and nurse outcomes: A systematic review

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25 Scopus citations


Background: Intensive care units (ICU) are associated with significant work stress and exert continuous physical and emotional demand upon health care providers. The health and well-being of care providers, including ICU nurses, is a matter of great concern. However, to the researcher's knowledge, there have been no reviews synthesizing the evidence about the relationship between nurse staffing and nurse outcomes in the ICU. Purpose: The purpose of this systematic review was to examine nurse staffing in the ICU and synthesize literature to examine the relationship with nurse outcomes such as job satisfaction, burnout, fatigue, and intent to leave. Methods: This review was reported based on the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines. Peer-reviewed articles published between January 2000 and September 2019 were identified via eight electronic bibliographic databases. Articles were included and reviewed if they were correlational studies examining the relationships between nurse staffing and nurse outcomes in the ICU, and were published in peer-reviewed journals written in either English or Korean. The Quality Assessment and Validity Tool for Correlation Studies was used for quality appraisal. Results: From 5086 articles, eight published between 2006 and 2019 were included in this review. Three studies found expected relationships between worse nurse staffing and adverse nurse outcomes (high burnout, fatigue state, emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and stress). However, the relationships between nurse staffing and other adverse nurse outcomes were not significant. Perceived adequate staffing was negatively related to adverse nurse outcomes. However, a non-significant relationship also was found. Conclusion: This study found limited evidence on relationships between nurse staffing and nurse outcomes in the ICU. More studies are needed to conduct to find a conclusive relationship. Relevance to clinical practice: Given high demands and workload in the ICU, nurse staffing levels should be closely monitored to prevent adverse nurse outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)457-466
Number of pages10
JournalNursing in Critical Care
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 British Association of Critical Care Nurses


  • burnout
  • intensive care nurses
  • intent to leave
  • job dissatisfaction
  • nurse-patient ratio


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