Identifying thresholds for relationships between impacts of rationing of nursing care and nurse- and patient-reported outcomes in Swiss hospitals: A correlational study

Maria Schubert, Sean P. Clarke, Tracy R. Glass, Bianca Schaffert-Witvliet, Sabina De Geest

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: In the Rationing of Nursing Care in Switzerland Study, implicit rationing of care was the only factor consistently significantly associated with all six studied patient outcomes. These results highlight the importance of rationing as a new system factor regarding patient safety and quality of care. Since at least some rationing of care appears inevitable, it is important to identify the thresholds of its influences in order to minimize its negative effects on patient outcomes. Objectives: To describe the levels of implicit rationing of nursing care in a sample of Swiss acute care hospitals and to identify clinically meaningful thresholds of rationing. Design: Descriptive cross-sectional multi-center study. Settings: Five Swiss-German and three Swiss-French acute care hospitals. Participants: 1338 nurses and 779 patients. Methods: Implicit rationing of nursing care was measured using the newly developed Basel Extent of Rationing of Nursing Care (BERNCA) instrument. Other variables were measured using survey items from the International Hospital Outcomes Study battery. Data were summarized using appropriate descriptive measures, and logistic regression models were used to define a clinically meaningful rationing threshold level. Results: For the studied patient outcomes, identified rationing threshold levels varied from 0.5 (i.e., between 0 ('never') and 1 ('rarely') to 2 ('sometimes')). Three of the identified patient outcomes (nosocomial infections, pressure ulcers, and patient satisfaction) were particularly sensitive to rationing, showing negative consequences anywhere it was consistently reported (i.e., average BERNCA scores of 0.5 or above). In other cases, increases in negative outcomes were first observed from the level of 1 (average ratings of rarely). Conclusions: Rationing scores generated using the BERNCA instrument provide a clinically meaningful method for tracking the correlates of low resources or difficulties in resource allocation on patient outcomes. Thresholds identified here provide parameters for administrators to respond to whenever rationing reports exceed the determined level of '0.5' or '1'. Since even very low levels of rationing had negative consequences on three of the six studied outcomes, it is advisable to treat consistent evidence of any rationing as a significant threat to patient safety and quality of care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)884-893
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Nursing Studies
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2009


  • Health care rationing
  • Nursing
  • Quality of heath care
  • Safety

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Nursing


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