Study: LTC nurses spend less than half of time on resident care

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Care providers spend more than half of their time at work doing tasks that do not involve resident care, indicating long-term care can become more efficient by delegating certain activities to non-regulated workers, according to new research.

Seven Canadian nursing home sites were observed for two months, for the study, which was published June 6 in the online version of the Journal of Nursing Studies. Registered nurses, LPNs and resident aides were observed to gauge how much time they spent doing certain activities.

The activities were put into three categories: Direct care for residents, indirect care and non-value added activities, such as restocking, searching for equipment and supplies, distributing linen; and looking for other providers. While results differed for each site, position and time of shift, care providers overall spent as much as 53.7% of their time performing non-care related tasks, said the researchers, who were primarily affiliated with the University of New Brunswick in St. John.

Aides spent 35.5% of their time in non-value added activities, which is more than other providers. RNs focused more on indirect care while LPNs tended to provide a combination of direct and indirect care.

These findings may be an opportunity to improve work quality and promote more time with residents, study authors wrote. Many facilities also had blurred lines in roles between RNs, LPNs and RAs, raising questions about defined tasks and use of resources. Other factors, such as facility design, organizational culture, practitioner skills and provider relationships also may change efficiency.

The quality of resident care was not evaluated in this study, and time spent away from residents does not necessarily reflect the quality of care delivered by providers, researchers pointed out.