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Keywords:

  • activities;
  • nursing;
  • real-time;
  • tasks

Aim

To explore the frequency of different nursing tasks in medical and surgical wards.

Background

The time nurses spend on direct patient care is important for both patients and nurses. However, little is known about the time nurses spend on various nursing tasks.

Methods

A real-time, repeated measures design conducted amongst 67 (= 39 medical, = 28 surgical) UK hospital nurses. Between September 2011 and August 2012 participants completed an electronic diary version of a classification of nursing tasks (WOMBAT) during shifts.

Results

A total of 961 real-time measures of nursing task were obtained. Direct patient care [median = 37.5%, interquartile range = 27.8], indirect care (median = 11.1%, interquartile range = 19.4) and medication (median = 11.1%, interquartile range = 18.8) were most commonly reported. Participants were interrupted in 62% of entries (interquartile range = 35), reported adequate time in 78% (interquartile range = 31) and adequate resources in 89% (interquartile range = 36). Ward-related tasks were significantly more frequent on medical wards than surgical wards but otherwise there were no significant differences.

Conclusions

Nurses spend the highest proportion of time in direct patient care and majority of this on core nursing activities. Interruptions to tasks are common. Nurses tend to report adequate time/resources. The frequency of nursing tasks is similar in medical and surgical wards.

Implications for nursing management

Nurse managers should review the level of interruptions to nurses' work and ensure appropriate levels of supervision.