The Effects of Nurse Presenteeism on Quality of Care and Patient Safety

Research briefs from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Nursing Research Network identify specific ways nurses affect patient care quality and outcomes. Since 2005, the Interdisciplinary Nursing Quality Research Initiative (INQRI) program has supported interdisciplinary teams that involved nursing scholars and scholars from other disciplines in research projects—from the conceptual study design to the adoption in practice of new measures of standards of care.

This research brief increases our understanding of how nurses’ health problems reduce productivity, especially problems such as musculus-skeletal pain and/or depression; and explore the impact of this reduced “nurse presenteeism” on the quality of nursing care, patient safety, and health care costs.

Key Findings

  • Approximately three out of four of the nurses surveyed reported working with some pain; 18.4 percent reported a pain level of greater than 5 on a scale of 0-to-10, with 10 indicating severe pain.

  • Eighteen percent of surveyed nurses reported depressive symptoms assessed via the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) which is a depression scale.

  • After controlling for individual and workplace variables, both pain and depression were significantly associated with nurse-reported reduced productivity (presenteeism).

  • Nurses who reported a high level of presenteeism were more likely to report higher rates of medication errors and a greater number of patient falls, compared with nurses who reported working with illness less often.

  • Nurses who reported a high level of presenteeism were less likely to report high levels of quality of care on their units compared with nurses who reported working with illness less often.

More from Interdisciplinary Nursing Quality Research Initiative

To support interdisciplinary studies that address critical knowledge gaps regarding causal linkages between nursing and health care quality and to synthesize, translate, and disseminate major findings to key stakeholders.

More from Interdisciplinary Nursing Quality Research Initiative