The content of nurse unit managers' work: a descriptive study using daily activity diaries

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NUMs' job description in Icelandic hospitals has been revised and now also includes managerial and financial responsibilities.


To describe the actual work activities of nurse unit managers (NUMs) in surgical and internal medicine services as self-documented and reflected in their job description.


Prospective exploratory study.


The study's setting was the largest hospital in Iceland. Data were collected over 7 days from NUMs working on surgical and medical units with an activity diary listing five domains and 41 activities: ‘management and planning’ (seven activities), ‘staff responsibility (seven activities), ‘direct clinical work’ (five activities), ‘service’ (12 activities) and ‘other’ (nine activities).


The managers' spent most of their time within the ‘other’ domain (32% of their time), then the next significant amount of time on ‘management and planning’ and ‘clinical nursing’ (19%), and the least amount of time on ‘service’ (14%). All reported working on two or more activities simultaneously. NUMs made erroneous estimations approximately half of the time about the domain they spent most of their time in and their satisfaction with their work each day varied greatly.


The work of NUMs is highly diverse, including undefined miscellaneous tasks and clinical work beyond their job description.

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