Nurses Overwhelmed With Burdensome Paperwork

Megan Charles - Author

Nov. 3 2016, Updated 4:32 a.m. ET

Nurses are overwhelmed with the administrative task of regulatory paperwork. Instead of dedicating their time to patient care, UK nurses spend a fifth of their shift on non-essential administrative tasks. Those in the US use nearly a quarter of their time on indirect patient care.

Updating patient charts is an essential aspect of nursing, but according to the Royal College of Nursing, staff spends more of their day performing non-medically related administrative work – filing, photocopying, and ordering supplies. This is due to a chronic lack of administrative workers and a failure to invest in new IT systems that would limit repetitive data entry.

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Due to the regulatory nature of healthcare, some of these redundancies will never be eliminated, but certainly need to be reassessed to minimize the time on non-essential work.

In addition to redundant information recording and lack of staff, some institutes require especially assiduous note-taking regarding the basics of patient care, including the frequency of how often the nurses speak to patients. Imagine noting every conversation you had in a day, work related or not.

A survey of over 6,300 nurses in the UK revealed the amount of hours invested in unnecessary paperwork has doubled over the last five years; 86 percent stating the burden had worsened and inhibited their ability to perform their patient duties. A quarter stated their workplace didn’t have a ward clerk, an employee who keeps records and does other general office work, on staff.

A similar survey conducted by Jackson Healthcare, a Georgia-based healthcare staffing and management company, interviewed 1,600 hospital-based nurses and found that 75 percent of them spent one-quarter of a 12-hour shift on indirect patient care services.

Nurses stated the reasons they were pulled away from patients were to document information in multiple locations, completing logs and checklists, reviewing orders, and walking equipment to supply areas and utility rooms.

A manifesto from the Royal College of Nursing in Scotland suggests medical institutes should hire on an adequate number of ward clerks and administrative staff. In addition, the information systems used should be linked in such a way as to not require reentry of the same data.

Governments have pledged to crack down on the bureaucracy, as the lessening of non-medically related paperwork tasks in the nursing staff would vitally improve care standards for patients.

[Image via Shutterstock]


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