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Keywords:

  • conversation analysis;
  • ethnography;
  • patient admission;
  • routine nursing work;
  • service delivery

Admitting hospital patients: a qualitative study of an everyday nursing task

In recent years new modes of nursing work have been introduced globally in response to radical changes in healthcare policies, technology and new ideologies of citizenship. These transformations have redefined orthodox nurse–patient relationships and further complicated the division of labour within health-care. One distinctive feature of the work of registered nurses has been their initial assessment of patients being admitted to hospital, and it is of interest that this area of nursing practice remains central to the registered nurse's role at a time where other areas of practice have been relinquished to other occupational groups. This qualitative study, drawing on conversation analysis and ethnographic techniques, explores this area of everyday nursing work. Initial nursing assessments have attracted considerable interest in the nursing literature, where it is clearly stated that assessments should be patient centred and seen as the important first step on the road to a therapeutic nurse–patient relationship. Results from this study lead to the conclusion that the actual nursing practice of patient assessment on admission to hospital is at odds with the recommendations of the literature and that a more routinised, bureaucratic form of work is devised by nurses as a means of expediting the process of admission.