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Reconsidering the conceptualization of nursing workload: literature review

Authors

  • Roisin Morris,

    1. Roisin Morris BA MSc DBS Research Fellow Dublin City University School of Nursing, Dublin City University, Glasnevin, Dublin, Ireland
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  • Padraig MacNeela,

    1. Padraig MacNeela BA PhD Lecturer NUIG Department of Psychology, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland
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  • Anne Scott,

    1. Anne Scott MSc PhD RN Deputy President Professor of Nursing Presidents Office/Dublin City University School of Nursing, Dublin City University, Glasnevin, Dublin, Ireland
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  • Pearl Treacy,

    1. Pearl Treacy BA MSc PhD RN Professor of Nursing University College Dublin School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin, Ireland
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  • Abbey Hyde

    1. Abbey Hyde MSocSc PhD RN Head of Teaching and Learning University College Dublin School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin, Ireland
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Roisin Morris:
e-mail: roisin.morris@dcu.ie

Abstract

Aim.  This paper reports a literature review that aimed to analyse the way in which nursing intensity and patient dependency have been considered to be conceptually similar to nursing workload, and to propose a model to show how these concepts actually differ in both theoretical and practical terms.

Background.  The literature on nursing workload considers the concepts of patient ‘dependency’ and nursing ‘intensity’ in the realm of nursing workload. These concepts differ by definition but are used to measure the same phenomenon, i.e. nursing workload.

Method.  The literature search was undertaken in 2004 using electronic databases, reference lists and other available literature. Papers were sourced from the Medline, Psychlit, CINAHL and Cochrane databases and through the general search engine Google. The keywords focussed on nursing workload, nursing intensity and patient dependency.

Findings.  Nursing work and workload concepts and labels are defined and measured in different and often contradictory ways. It is vitally important to understand these differences when using such conceptualizations to measure nursing workload. A preliminary model is put forward to clarify the relationships between nursing workload concepts.

Conclusion.  In presenting a preliminary model of nursing workload, it is hoped that nursing workload might be better understood so that it becomes more visible and recognizable. Increasing the visibility of nursing workload should have a positive impact on nursing workload management and on the provision of patient care.

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