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Nursing workload in intensive care units and the influence of patient and nurse characteristics

Moghadam, K., Chehrzad, M., Masouleh, S. , Mardani, A., Maleki, M., Akhlaghi, E. & Harding, C. ORCID: 0000-0002-5192-2027 (2020). Nursing workload in intensive care units and the influence of patient and nurse characteristics. Nursing In Critical Care, 26(6), pp. 425-431. doi: 10.1111/nicc.12548


Understanding factors that can potentially influence patient care and nursing workload in intensive care units is important. Previous studies have shown contradictory outcomes about the relationships between nursing workload and patient and nurse characteristics.

Aims and objectives
This study aimed to investigate nursing workload in intensive care units and examine the association between this in relation to patient and nurse characteristics.

A cross‐sectional design was conducted.

All nurses who were working in the intensive care units of five hospitals and met the study criteria were enrolled in the study. Two demographic questionnaires collected nurse and patient demographic information. The Nursing Activities Score was applied to determine nursing workload in three shifts (morning, evening, night) for each nurse. Data were analysed using the independent sample t‐test, one‐way analysis of variance, and multivariable linear regression analysis.

The Nursing Activities Score was calculated for 509 patients who were under the care of 105 intensive care unit nurses. The mean (SD) Nursing Activities Score was 72.84% (22.07%). Morning shifts, male patients, medical treatments, and referred patients from the emergency ward and other intensive care units imposed a higher workload for nurses. Specifically, female nurses, increased number of patients receiving care, and increased patient length of intensive care unit stay were directly associated with increased Nursing Activities Scores. Work in surgical and burn intensive care units were inversely associated with the Nursing Activities Score.

This study suggests that the workload of nurses in intensive care units can be affected by both nurse and patient characteristics.

Relevance to clinical practice
The findings can be used to ensure appropriate staffing of intensive care units by nurses. However, nurse and patient characteristics should not be considered the only factors that influence nursing workload in intensive care units.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Moghadam, KN, Chehrzad, MM, Masouleh, SR, et al. Nursing workload in intensive care units and the influence of patient and nurse characteristics. Nurs Crit Care. 2020; 1– 7., which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions.
Publisher Keywords: Critical care; ICU; Intensive care units; Nursing; Workload
Subjects: R Medicine > RC Internal medicine
R Medicine > RT Nursing
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Language & Communication Science
SWORD Depositor:
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