The relationships between communication, care and time are intertwined: a narrative inquiry exploring the impact of time on registered nurses' work

J Adv Nurs. 2013 Sep;69(9):2020-9. doi: 10.1111/jan.12064. Epub 2013 Jan 13.


Aim: To report a qualitative study which explores registered nurses' views on the issue of time in the workplace.

Background: There is a worldwide shortage of healthcare workers, subsequently time as a healthcare resource is both finite and scarce. As a result, increased attention is being paid to the restructuring of nursing work. However, the experience of time passing is a subjective one and there exists little research which, over a prolonged period of time, describes nurses' experiences of working in time-pressurized environments.

Design: A narrative inquiry.

Method: Five registered nurses were individually interviewed a total of three times over a period of 12 months, amounting to a total of 15 interviews and 30 hours of data. Data were collected and analysed following a narrative enquiry approach during the period 2008-2010.

Findings: Participants describe how attempts to work more effectively sometimes resulted in unintended negative consequences for patient care and how time pressure encourages collegiality amongst nurses. Furthermore, the registered nurses' account of how they opportunistically create time for communication with patients compels us to re-evaluate the nature of communication during procedural nursing care.

Conclusion: Increasingly nursing work is translated into quantitative data or metrics. This is an inescapable development which seeks to enhance understanding of nursing work. However, qualitative research may also offer a useful approach which captures the otherwise hidden, subjective experiences associated with time and work. Such data can exist alongside nursing metrics, and together these can build a better and more nuanced consideration of nursing practice.

Keywords: hospital/institutional environment; narrative inquiry; nursing care; qualitative; routine work; time; workforce issues.

MeSH terms

  • Communication*
  • Hong Kong
  • Humans
  • Narration*
  • Nurse-Patient Relations
  • Nursing Staff*