New methods of tracking hospital nurses could help make workflow more efficient, study finds

December 6, 2017 by Jeff Sossamon, University of Missouri-Columbia
The NFER system, which includes several routers set up throughout the unit and wearable devices for the nurses, allows researchers to track nurses’ movements in real time. Credit: Jung Hyup Kim

Previous studies about nurse workflow have used time-motion study methods, which involve manually observing nurses in person or on video and then clocking how much time they spend on each task. Now, a University of Missouri engineer has developed a method for better tracking how nurses in an intensive care unit (ICU) spend their workday. The method uses a combination of manual observation and non-intrusive tracking sensors that allow researchers to track nurses in real time. Findings could help improve the health care delivery process in the ICU and could also be applied to other health care procedures.

"The nurses in an ICU confront heavy daily workloads and face difficulties in managing multiple stressors from their routine work," said Jung Hyup Kim, an assistant professor in the MU Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering Department. "They're multitaskers, doing many things simultaneously. For example, while talking with the patient and getting vital signs, they also are charting in the electronic medical record (EMR) system. We wanted to find ways to streamline their jobs, making them more efficient."

Kim uses a Near Field Electromagnetic Ranging (NFER) system to drill down to a more accurate measure of how much time ICU nurses spend on various duties each day. The NFER system, which includes several routers set up throughout the unit that track devices worn by the nurses, allows researchers to track nurses' movements in . These movements and workflows are observed on monitors showing dots that represent workers as they move about and perform their duties.

Researchers often are not allowed to accompany nurses into patient rooms in order to protect patients' privacy. The NFER system allows researchers to observe if nurses are providing patient care or inputting data during their time spent in each room. Using the tracking system, Kim and his team were able to pinpoint whether nurses were at the room's computer or bedside and measure time spent doing each accordingly.

"We knew when and where nurses were during their shift and what kind of work they did in real time by using the data we collected from the NFER system. I believe it will advance our understanding of ICU nurses' workflow," Kim said. "Future planned studies will cover full 24-hour periods rather than just the day shift, as well as extend the method to other ICUs."

Using these measurements, managers and supervisors can help plan nurses' shifts more efficiently, and designers and architects can use the information to design more efficient hospital units, Kim said.

Explore further: Nurses' strike in Portugal cripples public health services

Related Stories

Nurses' strike in Portugal cripples public health services

September 11, 2017
Nurses in Portugal began a five-day strike over status, pay and working hours on Monday, crippling services at public hospitals, union leaders said.

Patients at risk from 'nested interruptions' in nursing tasks, human factors paper reports

March 1, 2017
Intensive care units (ICUs) are one of the most challenging and complex environments in today's health-care system. ICU nurses, who perform various tasks critical to ensuring the safety of patients under their care, are frequently ...

How different types of nurses impact the health of patients with diabetes

September 21, 2015
More than 28,000 nurses in the UK can prescribe the same medicines as doctors provided that it is in their level of experience and competence. A new study looks at whether there is added value of having nurse prescribers, ...

Involving patients in their nurses' shift change reduces medical errors and satisfies patients

November 20, 2013
At shift change, incoming and outgoing nurses transfer accountability by exchanging information about the patients under their charge. Called bedside handover, this process empowers patients and allows them to become active ...

Shift length affects nurse well-being, patient satisfaction

December 7, 2012
(HealthDay)—For nurses, working extended hours is associated with increased job dissatisfaction and burnout, and with patient dissatisfaction, according to a study published in the November issue of Health Affairs.

Getting doctors and nurses to work together at patient bedsides

November 10, 2016
The structure of health care systems helps determine how doctors and nurses collaborate during hospital rounds, according to Penn State College of Medicine researchers. A greater understanding of such team-based treatment ...

Recommended for you

India launches 'Modicare', world's biggest health scheme

September 23, 2018
India on Sunday launched the world's biggest health insurance scheme which Prime Minister Narendra Modi said would cover some 500 million poor people.

It's not just for kids—even adults appear to benefit from a regular bedtime

September 21, 2018
Sufficient sleep has been proven to help keep the body healthy and the mind sharp. But it's not just an issue of logging at least seven hours of Z's.

Patient-centered visual aid helps physicians discuss risks, treatments with parents

September 21, 2018
A series of illustrations and charts designed as decision aids for parents of children with minor head injuries helped them communicate with emergency medicine physicians and make informed decisions about their child's care, ...

Alcohol responsible for one in 20 deaths worldwide: WHO

September 21, 2018
Alcohol kills three million people worldwide each year—more than AIDS, violence and road accidents combined, the World Health Organization said Friday, adding that men are particularly at risk.

Smart pills dumb down medical care, experts warn

September 21, 2018
Enthusiasm for an emerging digital health tool, the smart pill, is on the rise but researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have published a paper in the American Journal of Bioethics that cautions health care ...

China's doctor shortage prompts rush for AI health care

September 20, 2018
Qu Jianguo, 64, had a futuristic medical visit in Shanghai as he put his wrist through an automated pulse-taking machine and received the result within two minutes on a mobile phone—without a doctor present.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.