Website spotlight: Nurse executives focus on complexity of care delivery

Staff Development Weekly: Insight on Evidence-Based Practice in Education, April 29, 2011

The average nurse is in cognitive overload, completing about 100 tasks per shift with an interruption every three minutes. At its annual meeting, the American Organization of Nurse Executives' put the spotlight on the current nature of nursing work to see how care delivery can be reshaped.

I attended a fascinating presentation by Mary Sitterding, PhDc, RN, CNS, director, nursing research and professional practice at Indiana University Health, and Patricia Ebright, PhD, RN, CNS, associate dean of the Indiana University School of Nursing. These nurses have conducted a great deal of research about the complexity of nursing work and they shared some interesting statistics.

Nurses are subject to a ridiculous amount of interruptions during their shifts, such as patients and families asking questions, colleagues needing assistance, or having to track down supplies. These interruptions mean nurses lose an average of 2.1 hours each day, which costs the U.S. economy $508 billion annually.

The researchers shared that one nurse who was observed illustrated cognitive shifts or interweaving among five patients 74 times in eight hours.

"Think about what that does to a nurse's ability to think," says Sitterding.

Editor's note: To read the rest of this free article, visit the Reading Room, part of

Most Popular