Measuring the nursing workload in intensive care with the Nursing Activities Score (NAS): A prospective study in 16 hospitals in Belgium

This paper by Bruyneel and colleagues was published online in the Journal of Critical Care during August 2019.
Purpose:  The evaluation of nursing workload is a common practice in intensive care units (ICUs). It allows the calculation of an optimal nurse/patient ratio (N/P) which is a major challenge to ensuring the quality of care while controlling the costs of health care. The objectives of this study were, therefore, to evaluate the N/P ratio and to study nursing activities in intensive care in French-speaking Belgium.
Methods:  The Nursing Activities Score (NAS) was prospectively recorded by shift for two periods of one month each in 16 French-speaking Belgian hospitals for a total of 316 ICU beds in 24 ICUs.
Results:  We included 3377 patients in the study, of which 64% were medical (versus surgical). The results for 24-hour NAS (68.6%) were significantly different from the NAS per shift (Morning: 61.3%, Afternoon: 58.4%, Night: 55.0%). Outliers were significantly more prevalent among men and patients who died and outliers had longer stays in the ICU. Finally, mobilization-positioning and clinical-administrative tasks took, on average, more time for nurses in the ICU.
Conclusions:  There is a significant difference in N/P ratio between the Belgian regulation (1/3) and the one calculated by the NAS (1/1.5). A systematic objective assessment of shift workload should be done to avoid N/P ratio differences in intensive care.
The full text of this article is available to subscribers via this link to the journal’s homepage.  The full text of articles from issues older than sixty days is available via this link to an archive of issues of Journal of Critical Care.  A Rotherham NHS Athens password is required.  Eligible staff can register for an Athens password via this link.  Please speak to the library staff for more details.

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