Article| Volume 53, ISSUE 6, P281-290, November 2005

Health services research and the nursing workforce: Access and utilization issues

      Access to personal health services is only possible if there are an adequate number and distribution of qualified nurses. However, most work on access has been conceptualized as access to physician services or particular types of settings such as hospital care, not as access to nurses. In this paper I have used the Institute of Medicine Access framework to conceptualize the relationship of the nursing workforce to several aspects of access, and evaluated both the current state of research and existing gaps. Some of the gaps identified in the research that need to be included in a health services research agenda for nursing are: (1) the effect of regional market factors (such as physician ratios and poverty), or attitudes on the supply of nurses; (2) the lack of a critical analysis of staffing and outcome research, and measures of utilization and access specific to nurses in a variety of settings; (3) the need for more and better data to evaluate nurse career patterns, nursing workforce educational capacity, and effectiveness; and (4) relevant workforce policies.
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      Carol S. Brewer, PhD, is Associate Professor, University at Buffalo School of Nursing, Buffalo, NY.