Intensive Care Medicine

, Volume 38, Issue 9, pp 1438–1444

Measuring the nursing workload per shift in the ICU


    • Intensive CareGhent University Hospital
  • Dries Myny
    • Nursing DepartmentGhent University Hospital
  • Isabelle Van Herzeele
    • Department of Thoracic and Vascular SurgeryGhent University Hospital
  • Georges Van Maele
    • Division of Medical StatisticsGhent University
  • Dinis Reis Miranda
    • Intensive CareUniversity Hospital Groningen
  • Francis Colardyn
    • Intensive CareGhent University Hospital

DOI: 10.1007/s00134-012-2648-3

Cite this article as:
Debergh, D.P., Myny, D., Van Herzeele, I. et al. Intensive Care Med (2012) 38: 1438. doi:10.1007/s00134-012-2648-3



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.


NursingWorkloadShiftIntensive care unitNAS

Supplementary material

134_2012_2648_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (195 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 194 kb)

Copyright information

© Copyright jointly held by Springer and ESICM 2012