I hope you all are doing well, and surviving the end-of-winter slump!
I realized I never talked about what I did this summer, but it was a very cool opportunity and so I figured I should!
I participated in the Summer Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR). You can learn more about it here, but it’s basically a program in which students receive funding through Wharton to do independent research projects with a faculty mentor (who does not have to be Wharton faculty), and culminates in a paper and a final presentation. We are also required to upload our papers to the scholarly commons (Penn’s open access institutional repository of the scholarly output of the Penn community), present our research at a research symposium, and write a blog post about our experience (oh hey).
My project was called “Evaluating Nurse Staffing in Hospitals after Implementation of a Nurse-to-Patient Ratio Policy.” I worked with Dr. Matthew McHugh, the director of the Nursing and Healthcare Management dual-degree program and my supervisor at the Penn Nursing Center for Healthcare Outcomes and Policy Research, where I am a Research Assistant.
Multiple studies have established the benefits of adequate nurse staffing in hospitals on patient outcomes and workplace environment. In my research, I looked at three main types of policies, public reporting (in which hospitals report their nurse-patient ratios each year), staffing committees (in which hospitals are required to form a committee that includes nurses to decide what appropriate staffing levels should be), and mandates (in which states or countries legally require hospitals to have certain staffing levels). I reviewed multiple studies analyzing the effectiveness of these programs, and previewed ongoing studies by CHOPR that are continuing to review them.
I found that mandates were the most effective in increasing nurse staffing ratios; however, some nurse felt that they lost their autonomy to determine their own ratios based on workload and patient acuity. Often, a mandate law that allows for flexibility and allowed for mandates as well helped to solve this problem.
Overall, I had a really great experience with this program. SPUR allowed me the flexibility to do research on a topic I care about, and also gave me the opportunity to meet and learn from countless other student researchers. I didn’t really think I was interested in research when I first came to Penn, but SPUR really opened my mind to all the possibilities, and the intersection of business and healthcare research.