Work sampling: valuable methodology to define nursing practice patterns

Nurs Health Sci. 2003 Mar;5(1):31-8. doi: 10.1046/j.1442-2018.2003.00132.x.


The volatile clinical and managerial environment of today's health care system demands that the nursing sector regularly evaluates how staff deliver care. Management's central purpose is to support clinical core activities, striving for a reasonable balance between cost effectiveness and quality care. Various methodologies, such as work sampling and time-and-motion studies, have been used to explore work-related activities. As a cost-effective and useful methodology, work sampling warrants more in-depth exploration of the various techniques involved to ensure nurse managers, clinicians and researchers appreciate the complexities of the approach and its potential to contribute to an understanding of nursing work. The present paper describes work sampling as a method, reviews its use through the literature and outlines some of its advantages and disadvantages in comparison to the time-and-motion methodology, a method similar in many ways. It is intended to enhance readers' appreciation of work sampling's potential value to nurses and other health professionals, and to enhance the understanding of the difference between work sampling and time-and-motion studies.

MeSH terms

  • Nursing Methodology Research / methods*
  • Nursing Process*
  • Reproducibility of Results