Aim: The aim of this study was to describe the nurse's workload in care situations and on different work shifts on surgical and medical wards. Changes in heart rate, shoulder-neck muscle tension and perceived exertion were measured in these care situations.
Design: Nurses' physical fitness was tested using a clinical exercise test.
Results: Transportation of a patient to the operating theatre was the most strenuous care situation on morning and evening shifts. Primary care, and situations related to practical nursing procedures were the second most strenuous situations regardless of the shift. Workload in primary care situations and in transporting the patient can be classified as medium heavy based on heart rate and relative workload, whereas in other situations it can be classified on average as moderate or light. The nurse's good physical fitness was reflected in relative workload in care situations so that in primary care and practical nursing procedures there was a statistically significant difference between those who scored high on a fitness test and those who scored low. Transferring tasks and practical nursing procedures involved more shoulder-neck muscle tension than other care situations.