Journal scan

Hospitals underestimate number of staff needed to prevent infections

Study suggests new benchmark of having one employee per 69 beds but also urges need for local assessment

Hospitals may be underestimating the number of specialist staff they need to prevent infections among patients, and should consider having one employee per 69 beds, a study suggests


Picture: Neil O’Connor

Hospitals may be underestimating the number of specialist staff they use to prevent infections among patients, a study suggests.

A team of researchers in the US evaluated a non-profit healthcare system involving 34 hospitals and 600 clinics across five states.

Prior to a previous study in 2002 the level of recommended infection prevention control staffing had been set at one full time equivalent employee for every 250 acute care beds, which was subsequently changed to 0.8-1.0 for every 100 occupied acute care beds.

In the new study researchers spent a day at each site observing and interviewing staff.

New benchmark recommended

Type of activity, frequency, hours per activity and total number of locations in which activities occurred were used to calculate the number of hours of infection prevention control labour per week.

They found patient surveillance alone accounted for 50% of the time spent per day by each member of infection prevention control staff.

The team recommends a new benchmark of one full time equivalent employee for every 69 beds but has urged organisations to conduct a comprehensive assessment of services when deciding infection prevention control staffing needs.


Bartles R et al (2018) A systematic approach to quantifying infection prevention staffing and coverage needs. American Journal of Infection Control. doi.org/10.1016/j.ajic.2017.11.006

Further information

This article is for subscribers only

Jobs