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Assigning Patients to Nurses in Neonatal Intensive Care

C. Mullinax and M. Lawley
The Journal of the Operational Research Society
Vol. 53, No. 1 (Jan., 2002), pp. 25-35
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/822876
Page Count: 11
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Assigning Patients to Nurses in Neonatal Intensive Care
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Abstract

An intensive care nursery provides health care for critically ill newborn infants. During a typical shift, infants range from those needing only occasional care to those requiring constant attention. At the beginning of each shift, the head nurse groups the patients for assignment to staff nurses. Typically each nurse cares for one group of infants throughout the shift. The large variation in infant conditions along with several complicating side constraints makes it difficult to develop balanced nurse work loads. We develop a mathematical programming approach for achieving better workload balance. We first develop a detailed neonatal acuity system that quantifies the nursing workload of each patient. We then develop an integer linear program that assigns patients to nurses while balancing nurse workloads. Because this model is computationally intractable, we develop a heuristic that exploits the fact that most nurseries are divided into a number of physical zones. We use ten case studies taken from a major university hospital to benchmark the performance of this heuristic. We also perform a designed experiment using randomly generated problems that examines the effect of nursery parameters on heuristic performance.

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