A comparison of activities undertaken by enrolled and registered nurses on medical wards in Australia: An observational study

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
International Journal of Nursing Studies, 2008, 45 (9), pp. 1274 - 1284
Issue Date:
2008-09-01
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Background: The past decade has seen increasing patient acuity and shortening lengths of stays in acute care hospitals, which has implications for how nursing staff organise and provide care to patients. Objective: The aim of this study was to describe the activities undertaken by enrolled nurses (ENs) and registered nurses (RNs) on acute medical wards in two Australian hospitals. Design: This study used structured observation, employing a work sampling technique, to identify the activities undertaken by nursing staff in four wards in two hospitals. Nursing staff were observed for two weeks. The data collection instrument identified 25 activities grouped into four categories, direct patient care, indirect care, unit related activities and personal activities. Setting: Two hospitals in Queensland, Australia. Results: A total of 114 nursing staff were observed undertaking 14,528 activities during 482 h of data collection. In total, 6870 (47.3%) indirect, 4826 (33.2%) direct, 1960 (13.5%) personal and 872 (6.0%) unit related activities were recorded. Within the direct patient care activities, the five most frequently observed activities (out of a total of 10 activities) for all classifications of nursing staff were quite similar (admission and assessment, hygiene and patient/family interaction, medication and IV administration and procedures), however the absolute proportion of Level 2 RN activities were much lower than the other two groups. In terms of indirect care, three of the four most commonly occurring activities (out of a total of eight activities) were similar among groups (patient rounds and team meetings, verbal report/handover and care planning and clinical pathways). The six unit related activities occurred rarely for all groups of nurses. Conclusion: This study suggests that similarities exist in the activities undertaken by ENs and Level 1 RNs, supporting the contention that role boundaries are no longer clearly delineated. © 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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