Intensive Care Medicine

, Volume 38, Issue 9, pp 1438-1444

First online:

Measuring the nursing workload per shift in the ICU

  • Dieter P. DeberghAffiliated withIntensive Care, Ghent University Hospital Email author 
  • , Dries MynyAffiliated withNursing Department, Ghent University Hospital
  • , Isabelle Van HerzeeleAffiliated withDepartment of Thoracic and Vascular Surgery, Ghent University Hospital
  • , Georges Van MaeleAffiliated withDivision of Medical Statistics, Ghent University
  • , Dinis Reis MirandaAffiliated withIntensive Care, University Hospital Groningen
  • , Francis ColardynAffiliated withIntensive Care, Ghent University Hospital

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access



In the intensive care unit (ICU) different strategies and workload measurement tools exist to indicate the number of nurses needed. The gathered information is always focused on manpower needed per 24 h. However, a day consists of several shifts, which may be unequal in nursing workload. The aim of this study was to evaluate if differences in nursing workload between consecutive shifts can be identified by a nursing workload measurement tool.


The nursing activities score (NAS) was registered per patient for every shift during a 4-week period in a prospective, observational research project in the surgical-pediatric ICU (SICU-PICU) and medical ICU (MICU) of an academic hospital.


The NAS was influenced by the patient characteristics and the type of shift. Furthermore, the scores were lower during night shifts, in weekends and in MICU patients. Overall, the mean NAS per nurse per shift was 85.5 %, and the NAS per 24 h was 54.7 %.


This study has shown that the nursing workload can be measured per working shift. In the ICU, the NAS differentiates the nursing workload between shifts, patients and units.


Nursing Workload Shift Intensive care unit NAS