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J Adv Nurs. 2001 Feb;33(4):484-91.

How nurses manage time and work in long-term care.

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  • 1School of Nursing, University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA.



The aim of this study was to better understand the ways in which conditions of work, including staffing, affect how nurses in long-term care (LTC) facilities do their jobs and the quality of care they provide.


The research reported here was performed in the context of public policy debates about the relationship between staffing levels and quality in LTC.


In 1995 and 1996, interviews and participant observation were used to examine how 18 licensed nurses employed in two LTC facilities in the midwestern United States experience their day-to-day work.


Time was an extremely salient work condition for the nurses interviewed. Under conditions of too little time and many interruptions, nurses compensated by developing strategies to keep up or catch up. These strategies included minimizing the time spent doing required tasks, creating new time and redefining work responsibilities. Although these strategies allowed nurses to complete the tasks for which they were accountable, there were adverse consequences for nurses and residents. Nurses realized that time demands often made it impossible to provide care of high quality. They expressed their ideas about quality care as the notion of 'should do' work. In effect, time pressures forced them to forego the 'should do' work to complete the 'must do' work.


Increased staffing could improve the quality of care in LTC facilities.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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