Unit-related factors that affect nursing time with patients: spatial analysis of the time and motion study.

Ann Hendrich, Marilyn P. Chow, Sonit Bafna, Ruchi Choudhary, Yeonsook Heo, Boguslaw A. Skierczynski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


The primary goal of this study was to test the hypothesis that nurses adopt distinct movement strategies based on features of unit topology and nurse assignments. The secondary goal was to identify aspects of unit layout or organization that influence the amount of time nurses spend in the patient room. Previous research has demonstrated a link between nursing hours and patient outcomes. Unit layout may affect direct patient care time by determining aspects of nurse behavior, such as the amount of time nurses spend walking. The recent nurses' Time and Motion study employed multiple technologies to track the movements and activities of 767 medical-surgical nurses. With regard to unit layout, initial analysis of the data set did not detect differences between types of units and time spent in the patient room. The analysis reported here applies novel techniques to this data set to examine the relationship between unit layout and nurse behavior. Techniques of spatial analysis, borrowed from the architectural theory of spatial syntax, were applied to the Time and Motion data set. Motion data from radio-frequency identification tracking of nurses was combined with architectural drawings of the study units and clinical information such as nurse-patient assignment. Spatial analytic techniques were used to determine the average integration or centrality of nurse assignments for each shift. Nurse assignments with greater average centrality to all assigned rooms were associated with a higher number of entries to patient rooms, as well as to the nurse station. Number of entries to patient rooms was negatively correlated with average time per visit, but positively correlated with total time spent in patient rooms. The data describe two overall strategies of nurse mobility patterns: fewer, longer visits versus more frequent, shorter visits. Results suggest that the spatial qualities of nurse assignments and unit layout affect nurse strategies for moving through units and affect how frequently nurses enter patient rooms and the nurse station.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-20
Number of pages16
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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