, Volume 38, Issue 9, pp 1438-1444
Date: 09 Aug 2012

Measuring the nursing workload per shift in the ICU

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Abstract

Purpose

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.

Methods

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.

Results

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 %.

Conclusion

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.

This article is discussed in the editorial available at: doi:10.1007/s00134-012-2654-5.