Nursing Activities and Use of Time in the Postanesthesia Care Unit

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Specialty areas, such as the PACU, are currently characterized by a shortage of qualified nursing personnel along with the pressure for a most cost-conscious function of services. These, in combination with both the increasing acuity of patients and the advances of science and technology, have rendered necessary the investigation of how existing personnel can be better used. The work sampling approach has been widely used in different clinical settings to offer data about the amount of time nurses devote to specific activities.The aim of the current study was to categorize and quantify the activities of nurses employed in the PACU of the General University Hospital of Patras, Greece, and to identify differences with regard to shifts, varying nurse-patient ratios, and nurses' experiences. In the first phase, a classification form, which included all nursing activities, was constructed. This was based on literature review, researchers' experience, and semistructured personnel interviews. In the second phase, the researchers observed all PACU nurses, and activities were recorded on an hourly check sheet. A total of 4,320 observations were collected from 9/1/2004 to 9/30/2004.Nurses spent 35.2% of their time on direct clinical care, 11.6% on patient assessment, 7.0% on communication with patients, 7.2% on communication with other persons, 8.6% on clerical nursing duties, 9.3% on documentation, 2.3% on non-nursing duties, and 18.8% on personal activities. Variations in the use of time were found between shifts, different nurse-patient ratios, and PACU experience. Methods of decreasing time when the nurse-patient ratio is inappropriate and increasing time allocated to direct care activities are proposed.

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