Using Nursing Activities Score to Assess Nursing Workload on a Medium Care Unit

E. Armstrong, M.C. de Waard, H.J.S. de Grooth, M.W. Heymans, D.R. Miranda, A.R.J. Girbes, J.J. Spijkstra

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24 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: The medium care unit (MCU) or "stepdown" unit is an increasingly important, but understudied care environment. With an aging population and more patients with complex multiple diseases, many patients often require a higher level of inpatient care even when full intensive care is not indicated. However, the nurse-to-patient ratio required on a MCU is neither well defined nor clear whether this ratio should be adjusted per shift. The Nursing Activities Score (NAS) is an effective instrument for measuring nursing workload in the intensive care unit (ICU) but has not been used in an MCU. The aim of this study was to measure the nursing workload per 8-hour shift on an MCU using the NAS and compare it with the NAS from an ICU in the same hospital. We also compared the NAS between groups of patients with different admission sources. METHODS: The NAS was prospectively measured per patient per shift for 2 months in a 9-bed tertiary referral university hospital MCU and during a similar period in an ICU in the same hospital. RESULTS: The mean NAS per patient did not differ between day (7:30 am to 4:00 pm) and evening (3:00 pm to 11:30 pm) shifts, but the NAS was significantly lower during the night shift (11:00 pm to 8:00 am) than during the day (P < 0.0001) and evening (P < 0.0001) shifts. The mean NASs in the ICU for day and night shifts were significantly lower than the scores in the MCU (P = 0.0056 and P < 0.0001, respectively), but NAS during the evening shift did not differ between the ICU and the MCU. The mean NAS for patients admitted to the MCU from the accident and emergency department was significantly higher than for those admitted from the ICU (P = 0.002), recovery (P = 0.002), and general ward (P < 0.0001). Patients on the MCU had a NAS comparable with that of ICU patients. CONCLUSIONS: In our university hospital, NAS was higher during the day and evening hours and lower at night. We also found that patients from accident and emergency had a higher NAS than those admitted to the MCU from other locations. NAS in the MCU was not lower than the NAS in the ICU. Because of its ability to discriminate between day and evening workloads and between patients from different sources, the NAS may assist MCU managers in assessing staffing needs. (Anesth Analg 2015;121:1274-80)
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1274-1280
JournalAnesthesia and analgesia
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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