Workload scoring systems in the Intensive Care and their ability to quantify the need for nursing time: A systematic literature review

Marga E. Hoogendoorn, Charlotte C. Margadant, Sylvia Brinkman, Jasper J. Haringman, Jan Jaap Spijkstra, Nicolette F. de Keizer

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27 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: The Intensive Care Unit is a resource intense service with a high nursing workload per patient resulting in a low ratio of patients per nurse. This review aims to identify existing scoring systems for measuring nursing workload on the Intensive Care and assess their validity and reliability to quantify the needed nursing time. Methods: We conducted a systematic review of the literature indexed before 01/Mar/2018 in the bibliographic databases MEDLINE, Embase, and Cinahl. Full-text articles were selected and data on systems measuring nursing workload on the Intensive Care and translation of this workload into the amount of nursing time needed was extracted. Results: We included 71 articles identifying 34 different scoring systems of which 27 were included for further analysis as these described a translation of workload into nursing time needed. Almost all systems were developed with nurses. The validity of most scoring systems was evaluated by comparing them with another system (59%) or by using time measurements (26%). The most common way to translate workload-scores into nursing time needed was by categorizing the Nurse:Patient-ratios. Validation of the Nurse:Patient-ratios was mostly evaluated by comparing the results with other systems or with the actual planning and not with objective time measurements. Conclusion: Despite the large attention given to nursing workload systems for Intensive Care, only a few systems objectively evaluated the validity and reliability of measuring nursing workload with moderate results. The Nursing Activity Score system performed best. Poor methodology for the translation of workload scores into Nurse:Patient-ratio weakens the value of nursing workload scoring systems in daily Intensive Care practice.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103408
JournalInternational journal of nursing studies
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020


  • Classification
  • Intensive Care
  • Nurse:Patient-ratio
  • Nursing
  • Workload

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