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A human factors framework and study of the effect of nursing workload on patient safety and employee quality of working life



A human factors framework and study of the effect of nursing workload on patient safety and employee quality of working life



Bmj Quality and Safety 20(1): 15-24



Nursing workload is increasingly thought to contribute to both nurses' quality of working life and quality/safety of care. Prior studies lack a coherent model for conceptualising and measuring the effects of workload in healthcare. In contrast, we conceptualised a human factors model for workload specifying workload at three distinct levels of analysis and having multiple nurse and patient outcomes. To test this model, we analysed results from a cross-sectional survey of a volunteer sample of nurses in six units of two academic tertiary care paediatric hospitals. Workload measures were generally correlated with outcomes of interest. A multivariate structural model revealed that: the unit-level measure of staffing adequacy was significantly related to job dissatisfaction (path loading=0.31) and burnout (path loading=0.45); the task-level measure of mental workload related to interruptions, divided attention, and being rushed was associated with burnout (path loading=0.25) and medication error likelihood (path loading=1.04). Job-level workload was not uniquely and significantly associated with any outcomes. The human factors engineering model of nursing workload was supported by data from two paediatric hospitals. The findings provided a novel insight into specific ways that different types of workload could affect nurse and patient outcomes. These findings suggest further research and yield a number of human factors design suggestions.

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Accession: 051147647

Download citation: RISBibTeXText

PMID: 21228071

DOI: 10.1136/bmjqs.2008.028381


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