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West J Emerg Med. 2012 May;13(2):163-8. doi: 10.5811/westjem.2011.7.6743.

Time series analysis of emergency department length of stay per 8-hour shift.

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Boston University Medical Center, Department of Emergency Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts.



The mean emergency department (ED) length of stay (LOS) is considered a measure of crowding. This paper measures the association between LOS and factors that potentially contribute to LOS measured over consecutive shifts in the ED: shift 1 (7:00 am to 3:00 pm), shift 2 (3:00 pm to 11:00 pm), and shift 3 (11:00 pm to 7:00 am).



University, inner-city teaching hospital.


91,643 adult ED patients between October 12, 2005 and April 30, 2007.


For each shift, we measured the numbers of (1) ED nurses on duty, (2) discharges, (3) discharges on the previous shift, (4) resuscitation cases, (5) admissions, (6) intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, and (7) LOS on the previous shift. For each 24-hour period, we measured the (1) number of elective surgical admissions and (2) hospital occupancy. We used autoregressive integrated moving average time series analysis to retrospectively measure the association between LOS and the covariates.


For all 3 shifts, LOS in minutes increased by 1.08 (95% confidence interval 0.68, 1.50) for every additional 1% increase in hospital occupancy. For every additional admission from the ED, LOS in minutes increased by 3.88 (2.81, 4.95) on shift 1, 2.88 (1.54, 3.14) on shift 2, and 4.91 (2.29, 7.53) on shift 3. LOS in minutes increased 14.27 (2.01, 26.52) when 3 or more patients were admitted to the ICU on shift 1. The numbers of nurses, ED discharges on the previous shift, resuscitation cases, and elective surgical admissions were not associated with LOS on any shift.


Key factors associated with LOS include hospital occupancy and the number of hospital admissions that originate in the ED. This particularly applies to ED patients who are admitted to the ICU.

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