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Keywords:

  • evaluation;
  • health services;
  • workforce

Abstract

Aim

To describe the daily tasks undertaken by dietitians working within the inpatient and outpatient sectors within the NSW public hospital system.

Methods

This study used an ethnographic methodology that employed a direct, non-participatory, discontinuous, observational technique to observe hospital dietitians, in both outpatient and inpatient settings, during a typical work shift. Trained volunteer observers collected the data over a three-year period (2008, 2009 and 2010). The data were combined and then sorted into five categories including: direct patient care, indirect patient care, communication, administration and education of self or others.

Results

A total of 609 hours and 21 minutes were observed across a three-year time period 2008–2010. On average, the dietitians in both inpatient and outpatient settings spent 18.3–32.2% of their time in direct patient care activities. The majority of time was spent in indirect patient care activities such as: information collection, documentation and discussion with other health-care professionals. A comparison between the two work settings showed that those dietitians working in the inpatient setting spent less time in direct patient care (18.3% vs 33.1%, P < 0.05), and more time in indirect care activities (41.7% vs 23.3%, P < 0.05) and in communication about patient care (22.7% vs 14.4%, P < 0.05).

Conclusions

The findings show that dietitians spend most of their time doing activities that support patient care, but these activities occur away from the patient.