Anatomy of the ward round: the time spent in different activities

ANZ J Surg. 2010 Dec;80(12):930-2. doi: 10.1111/j.1445-2197.2010.05522.x. Epub 2010 Oct 12.


Background: The ward round, central to inpatient care, has not been well studied. One recent trend is for hospitals to run at capacity by placing 'overflow' patients into 'outlying' beds. Bed occupancy rates are increased and ward rounds may require visits to many wards. The present study aims to identify the time spent in different activities on general surgical ward rounds, with particular reference to the impact of outlying patients.

Methods: For 4 days, the morning ward round was observed. Activity was timed to the second. The resulting data were analysed to compare outlying wards, acute wards and home ward patients.

Results: Seven hours and 7 min of ward rounds were documented. One hundred ten consultations were observed. Four hours and 4 min were spent at the bedside (58%). Sixty-six minutes were spent in transit between wards. The average times spent at the bedside and in patient discussion were similar for the different ward types. The mean average time per patient was nearly doubled for outlying patients compared with home wards (5:40 min versus 2:57 min, respectively). Although patient discussion and consultation were longer for outlying patients, most of the increased time was related to time travelling between wards (2:16 min average per patient consultation).

Conclusion: Most of the time spent on surgical ward rounds is in patient contact. Travel time to outlying patients for morning ward rounds is more than an hour per week.

MeSH terms

  • Bed Occupancy
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • New Zealand
  • Surgery Department, Hospital / organization & administration
  • Teaching Rounds / organization & administration*
  • Time Factors
  • Workload