For those of you that have been following my commentary about staff nursing levels highlighted in what has become a string of scandals in the NHS, it probably comes as no surprise there is now the call for hospitals in England should publicly display the number of nurses they have on
duty on each ward.
At first pass it doesn’t seem unreasonable, and makes one think why hasn’t it been done before. Well probably it may have been because there had been no link made between levels of nursing staff and poor clinical outcomes there is now; or if there was, it was kept ‘under wraps’ hence the equally vociferous call for ‘whistle blowers’ to be legally protected from hereon in.
For those who want an excellent overview of current research evidence about ‘Registered Nurse Staffing Levels and Patient Outcomes’ you can download and check out the two page document by the NNRU, King’s College London February 2013 here.
Leaving those arguments aside I want to quickly highlight the task of ‘simply’ counting the number of nurses on duty on each ward. In fact just one ward. Here we have a typical nurse duty roster, or ‘off duty roster’. Well perhaps not that typical if you are still pushing nurse duty schedules around on spread sheets or word documents – or on the ubiquitous ‘Lo-Tec’ whiteboard. Even so the problem of ‘counting’ is the same…
…do you count the numbers of nurses on each shift; or all the nurses working that day; if so do you know how many nurses you have on duty say at 11:30 am when three shifts are overlapping, two nurses have taken time-off in lieu and one has called in sick. It’s not easy, and can easily add a significant administrative burden if attempting to do this count manually. I did it once on a ‘time and motion’ study (I guess that dates me) over a three day period – my team mates and I never got the figures to add up once throughout the whole manual exercise!
You can easily generate an accurate and comprehensive nurse staffing levels in a couple of seconds, over as many days as you want – although too far ahead and changes mean you have to spend a few more seconds printing it off again. You get the picture, in less time than it takes to say ‘subcutaneous’ you can pin it on the notice board alongside all the other helpful advice hospital visitors read and you’ve discharged your obligations and are able to get on with what your good at.
You can download a copy of the staffing level report I am talking about here and check it out – if you want any other type of format just let us know. And yes you can export the data to Excel and publish graphs and bar charts to your ‘heart’s content’.