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Patterns of behaviour in nursing staff actioning the afferent limb of the rapid response system (RRS): A focused ethnography

Smith, D., Cartwright, M. ORCID: 0000-0002-3404-5659, Dyson, J. ORCID: 0000-0002-0928-0438 , Hartin, J. & Aitken, L. M. ORCID: 0000-0001-5722-9090 (2020). Patterns of behaviour in nursing staff actioning the afferent limb of the rapid response system (RRS): A focused ethnography. Journal Of Advanced Nursing, 76(12), pp. 3548-3562. doi: 10.1111/jan.14551


AIM: To improve understanding of afferent limb behaviour in acute hospital ward settings, to define and specify who needs to do what differently and to report what afferent limb behaviours should be targeted in a subsequent multi-phase, theory-based, intervention development process.

DESIGN: Focused ethnography was used including direct observation of nursing staff enacting afferent limb behaviours and review of vital signs charts.

METHODS: An observation guide focused observation on "key moments" of the afferent limb. Descriptions of observations from between 7 January 2019-18 December 2019 were recorded in a field journal alongside reflexive notes. Vital signs and early warning scores from charts were reviewed and recorded. Field notes were analysed using structured content analysis. Observed behaviour was compared with expected (policy-specified) behaviour.

RESULTS: Observation was conducted for 300 hr. Four hundred and ninety-nine items of data (e.g., an episode of observation or a set of vital signs) were collected. Two hundred and eighty-nine (58%) items of data were associated with expected (i.e. policy-specified) afferent limb behaviour; 210 (42%) items of data were associated with unexpected afferent limb behaviour (i.e. alternative behaviour or no behaviour). Ten specific behaviours were identified where the behaviour observed deviated (negatively) from policy or where no action was taken when it should have been. One further behaviour was seen to expedite the assessment of a deteriorating patient by an appropriate responder and was therefore considered a positive deviance.

CONCLUSION: Afferent limb failure has been described as a problem of inconsistent staff behaviour. Eleven potential target behaviours for change are reported and specified using a published framework.

IMPACT: Clear specification of target behaviour will allow further enquiry into the determinants of these behaviours and the development of a theory-based intervention that is more likely to result in behaviour change and can be tested empirically in future research.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2020 The Authors. Journal of Advanced Nursing published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Publisher Keywords: critical care, ethnography, nurse roles, nursing observations, qualitative approaches, research implementation
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Healthcare Services Research & Management
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Nursing
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