Methods used to quantify nursing workload in intensive care units: A review of the literature

Published: 19 August 2022| Version 1 | DOI: 10.17632/g2jmwn737m.1
Diana Cáceres


Introduction: Nursing workload in intensive care units (ICUs) is related to efficiency and quality of care; however, there are no methods to quantify nurses needed per shift in ICUs. Objective: To identify the most used tools to measure ICU nursing workload. Methods: An integrative literature review was performed using original articles in English, Spanish or Portuguese, published between 1991 and 2017 in the databases ScienceDirect, BVS, Scopus, and Embase. The search strategy was “nursing and workload and intensive critical or ICU and measure.” Duplicate articles or articles about intermediate care units (IMCU) were excluded. The quality of the articles was assessed using the Strobe checklist. Results: Thirty-six articles with a total of 19,036 patients were included; 50% (n=18) used NAS, 27.7% (n=10) used a combination of methods such as NAS, NEMS, TISS-28 or VACTE; 13.8% (n=5) used TISS-28, 5.6% (n=2) used video camera recording, and 2.7% (n=1) used NEMS to quantify the time spent by nurses in care. Discussion: There is currently no consensus on workload measurement methods in nursing. In this sense, more validation and comparison studies are needed to improve nursing care management in the ICUs. Conclusion: The most used tool to quantify workload in nursing is the Nursing Activities Score (NAS). Other tools identified were NEMS, TISS-28, and VACTE.



Intensive Care Unit, Clinical Nursing