Anyone stuck in a hospital bed will tell you where nurses often arent: nearby. Now theres a study to prove it.
That nurses constantly roam halls, travel between hospital floors or spend shifts anchored to the nurse station has long frustrated hospital executives, patients and nurses themselves. What you hear from patients is that they dont ever see the nurses, said Mary OLeary, chief nursing officer of St. Helena (Calif.) Hospital and Health Center.
In fact, nurses spend twice as much time away from the bedside than at it, according to results of a technology-heavy study of three dozen medical and surgical units in U.S. hospitals.
The studys significance may not be its findingswhich held no surprises for anyone familiar with a nurses daybut rather for its methods and scope. Investigators collected data from 767 nurses at 17 health systems on how and where nurses spent their time, and how far they walked. The study outfitted nurses for one week with hand-held computers, four sensors to track movement, and an armband that recorded physiological responses for 23 hours each day. In all, the study culled nearly 21,900 hours of data.
The wealth of data may offer concrete evidence of what many already guessed, but chief nursing executives said findings should help identify tasks that create waste, inefficiency and costly, harmful errors. Weeding out key culprits could ease hospitals already-chronic demand for nurses and improve working conditions for the highly skilled and well-paid workers.
We knew that the life of the working nurse had gotten extremely complicated, said Marilyn Chow, vice president of patient care services at Kaiser Permanente, who led the research with Ann Hendrich, vice president of clinical excellence operations for Ascension Health, the nations largest private not-for-profit health system. Hendrich could not be reached for comment, an Ascension spokeswoman said.
Healthcares dysfunction creates burdens for nurses, as does poorly designed technology, Chow said. The study even considered three floor plans to see whether hospital design could ease nurses workload. Significantly, architecture made no difference in how much time nurses spent with patients, Chow said.