A comparison of time-and-motion and self-reporting methods of work measurement

J Nurs Adm. 2000 Mar;30(3):118-25. doi: 10.1097/00005110-200003000-00003.


Objective: To compare results obtained from a time-and-motion study with those obtained using self-reporting.

Summary background data: Nurse executives are often required to provide additional patient care services with limited personnel resources. As a result, nurse executives must evaluate the appropriate allocation of nursing personnel resources. Work measurement may be used to evaluate personnel allocation. Multiple measurement approaches are available, but few studies have compared these methods.

Methods and subjects: Eight nurses were observed by a single observer during five shifts (or approximately 40 hours per nurse). After completion of the time-and-motion study, participants were to self-report their work activities during their ensuing five shifts. Mixed-effects analysis of variance was used to determine the significance of the work measurement method on percentage of total time, number of activities, and mean time per activity by activity category.

Results: Two hundred ninety hours of time-and-motion study observations and 338 hours of self-report data were available for analysis. Comparable amounts of total time were reported within the various activity categories using time-and-motion and self-reporting methods. In terms of number of activities reported, a significantly higher number of activities were reported using time-and-motion. As a result, mean activity times were significantly longer using the self-reporting method compared with time-and-motion.

Conclusions: Nurse executives should consider continuous self-reporting as a low-cost means of quantifying allocation of time among nursing personnel. Self-reporting, however, is not recommended for estimating the total number of activities or the mean time per activity because of perceptual differences between participants of what constitutes an activity.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Methods
  • Nurse Administrators
  • Nurses / organization & administration*
  • Nurses / standards
  • Nursing Care / organization & administration*
  • Nursing Staff / organization & administration*
  • Random Allocation
  • Southeastern United States
  • Task Performance and Analysis*
  • Time and Motion Studies*