Administrative Issues Journal


Denisse Neill


Changes in the health care environment have impacted nursing workload, quality of care, and patient safety. Nurses perceive that the quality of their work has diminished. Traditional nursing workload measures do not guarantee efficiency and do not adequately capture the complexity of nursing workload. Studies have identified tasks associated with nursing work but not the perception of the nurse about the mental work required to meet the demands. Human factors research examines cognitive and perceptual abilities needed to perform tasks in a reasonable time without error. Researchers using a human factors framework have focused on mental processing to understand why some demands are handled easily and others lead to signs of mental overload and decreased performance. Studies have investigated the multiple, complex dimensions of mental workload from the subjective perception of the worker. Findings indicate that human beings have the ability to attend to multiple details simultaneously. This review identifies the current state of nursing workload research and the need to include a subjective perception of the nurse as part of any workload measure.