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Do you know of work sampling techniques which categorize activities nurses perform?


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Nursing shortages and patient safety mandates require nurse managers and administrators to consider new ways of understanding the complexity of healthcare provider work in actual situations. The work sampling research and time-and-motion study approaches have been widely used in different clinical settings to offer data about the amount of time nurses devote to specific activities.

The work sampling technique collects data at intervals of time. For example, data might be collected by determining exactly what part of the nursing process or specific nursing task is occurring four times each hour while the time-and-motion data collection technique uses an observer to record exactly how much time is being devoted to each nursing task.

The two main work sampling techniques utilized are:

  1. Data collected by direct observation of the nurse in action at the point in time selected for the observation.
  2. Data collected by the nurse using personal logs/work diaries to self-report his/her activity.

The self-report work sampling technique has been demonstrated to be not as reliable a method for obtaining an accurate reflection of the work tasks as the observational technique despite concern regarding a potential Hawthorne effect.

One descriptive study completed by Gerrie Barnett, RNC, PhD and published in Computers, Informatics, Nursing. 26(4):199-206, July/August 2008 measured nursing time and support activities during the first stage of active labor.

—Phyllis Quinlan, RNC, MS, CLNC, CEN, CCRN