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How do PICU nurses spend their time? A pilot study

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Background: The Royal College of Nursing has recently expressed concerns about the amount of time nurses spend completing paperwork to the detriment of direct patient contact.

Aims: To determine how nurses on a psychiatric intensive care unit divide their time between duties, with a view to recommending ways of increasing quality time spent with patients.

Method: Five qualified nurses were observed while they worked a long day shift. Each activity was timed and assigned to one of seven main categories and a larger number of sub-categories.

Results: A total of 3758 minutes of nursing time were observed. Participants spent most time (30%) on direct patient contact with 12% of time involving medicines administration but only 1% in formal therapy sessions with patients and even less with relatives, friends and carers. Just less than 30% of time was spent in meetings and discussions about patients and 23% in completing paperwork and administration. For 14% of time nurses were engaged in tasks that could have been completed by healthcare assistants or administrators, although some of this time involved direct patient contact.

Conclusions: Nursing staff need to focus on spending more 1:1 and especially therapeutic time with patients.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2016

More about this publication?
  • Published twice a year, the Journal of Psychiatric Intensive Care is devoted to issues affecting the care and treatment of people with mental disorders who manifest severely disturbed functioning. The journal is international and multidisciplinary. It provides stimulating papers and articles of interest to those who work in or study psychiatric intensive care, low secure services, acute inpatient wards, challenging behaviour environments, emergency psychiatry, or intensive treatments settings in other parts of the wider mental health system. The Journal of Psychiatric Intensive Care encourages informed debate and exchange of opinion. Its content includes editorials, original research, brief reports, reviews, conference reports, news and notices, but preference is given to original research of a high scientific quality.
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