Objective: Residential aged care services are challenged by an increasing number of residents and a shortage of nursing staff. Developing strategies to overcome this challenge requires an understanding of nursing staff work patterns. The aim of the present study was to investigate the work processes followed by nursing staff and how nursing time is allocated in a residential aged care home.
Methods: An observational time-motion study was conducted at two aged care units for 12 morning shifts. Seven nurses were observed, one per shift.
Results: In all, there were 91 h of observation. The results showed that there was a common work process followed by all nurse participants. Medication administration, documentation and verbal communication were the most time-consuming activities and were conducted most frequently. No significant difference between the two units was found in any category of activities. The average duration of most activities was less than 1 min. There was no difference in time utilisation between the endorsed enrolled nurses and the personal carers in providing nursing care.
Conclusion: Medication administration, documentation and verbal communication were the major tasks in morning shifts in a residential aged care home. Future research can investigate how verbal communication supports nursing care. What is known about the topic?: The aging population will substantially increase the demand for residential aged care services. There is a lack of research on nurses' work patterns in residential aged care homes. What does this paper add?: The present study provides a comprehensive understanding of nurses' work patterns in a residential aged care home. There is a common work process followed by nurses in providing nursing care. Medication administration, verbal communication and documentation are the most time-consuming activities and they are frequently conducted in the same period of time. Wound care, physical review and documentation on desktop computers are arranged flexibly by the nurses. What are the implications for practitioners?: When developing a task reallocation strategy to improve work efficiency, effort can be put into tasks that can be arranged more flexibly.