Background. In their practice nurses constantly make decisions in a dynamic context including complex situations. Besides affecting elements related to the decision-maker and the task itself, the setting where the decision-making process takes place are of decisive importance to the quality of the decision-making outcome.
Aim. The aim of this study was to explore environmental elements related to the decision-making process in nursing practice.
Methods. Six expert nurses, from three Swedish nursing settings, participated voluntarily in the study, which were designed of participated observations in everyday nursing practice. Permission to carry out the study was given by the clinics and an ethical committee. A content analysis was used to analyse the field notes where themes emerged which were found to be environmental elements affecting decision-making process of nurses.
Conclusions. The most striking theme, environmental elements, included the sub-themes interruptions and the work procedures are presented in this report. The implications of environmental elements, are discussed from a perspective of nurses' competence, where the elements could be seen as a facilitator or as a hindrance to developing nursing competence. It were concluded that environmental elements have to be well considered before knowledge can be reached about decision-making in practice.
Relevance to clinical practice. Interpersonal and technological interruptions were features highlighted in the study, features which could jeopardize the decision-making outcome. Therefore, it is of greatest importance that nurses learn to use decision-making strategies to guarantee patient care security and patient care quality.