‘Scraps’: hidden nursing information and its influence on the delivery of care
What nurses commonly describe as ‘scraps’ are defined as the personalized recordings of information that is routinely made on any available piece of paper (hence scraps) or in small notebooks. The use of scraps is common in practice and has been noted in research from across the globe. Drawing on an empirical study it is argued that scraps are a unique combination of personal and professional knowledge that informs the delivery of care. The overall aim of the study was to discover how nurses define and communicate information about patients and the delivery of care to each other on an elderly care unit. The processes by which information was constructed and the organizational structure and interactions that influenced this were also identified. The research design was an ethnographic one that involved: observations of formal nursing end of shift reports (23 handovers) and informal interactions between nurses (146 hours); interviews (n + 34) with registered nurses, student nurses and nursing auxiliaries; and analysis of written records. Data were collected from five acute elderly care wards at a district general hospital in the south of England. A grounded theory analysis was undertaken which revealed that scraps may have a significant role in the communication of information and the delivery of care. Therefore a categorization of scraps within three main themes was undertaken. First, the analysis revealed the processes involved in the construction of scraps. Second, the content and role of scraps in influencing the delivery of care was exposed. Finally, the potentially confidential nature of scraps and consequent problems of storage and disposal was recognized. The findings are discussed in relation to a suggested model of the interrelationship between paperwork, scraps, handovers and the delivery of nursing care. It is concluded that scraps are significant in facilitating nursing care and that this should be recognized in research, education and practice.