Aim. The aim of this investigation was to establish the distribution and proportion of nursing activity represented by patient-related care activities (direct and indirect), and other nursing activities (unit-related and personal) within one inpatient neurological rehabilitation unit. Background. A set of tools has been developed for estimating the care/nursing hours required for direct hands-on patient care in hospital rehabilitation settings. However, to apply this information to estimate the actual staffing requirements in relation to a given caseload, it is necessary to know the proportion of nursing workload assigned to other activities and how this may vary throughout the day. Method. A work sampling study was conducted during 2004. A snapshot of nursing activity was recorded at 5-minute intervals from 06.00 to 23.55 spread over 2 weeks, with one session from 06.00 to 15.25 and the second from 15.30 to 23.55. Results. A total of 8883 nursing activities were observed and recorded over 126 hours and categorized as follows: 4060 (46%) direct patient care, 2218 (25%) indirect patient care, 874 (10%) unit-related and 1731 (19%) personal time. The proportions of direct care fluctuated throughout the day, with direct care activities mainly concentrated in early mornings and to a lesser extent evenings. Conclusion. Direct patient care accounted for less than half of the nursing activity in a rehabilitation setting. Estimates of staffing requirement must also take account of the time required for indirect care and non-patient related activity
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