Vital signs monitoring on general wards: clinical staff perceptions of current practices and the planned introduction of continuous monitoring technology

Int J Qual Health Care. 2016 Sep;28(4):515-21. doi: 10.1093/intqhc/mzw062. Epub 2016 Jun 17.


Objective: Early detection of patient deterioration and prevention of adverse events are key challenges to patient safety. This study investigated clinical staff perceptions of current monitoring practices and the planned introduction of continuous monitoring devices on general wards.

Design: Multi-method study comprising structured surveys, in-depth interviews and device trial with log book feedback.

Setting: Two general wards in a large urban teaching hospital in Sydney, Australia.

Participants: Respiratory and neurosurgery nursing staff and two doctors.

Results: Nurses were confident about their abilities to identify patients at risk of deterioration, using a combination of vital signs and visual assessment. There were concerns about the accuracy of current vital signs monitoring equipment and frequency of intermittent observation. Both the nurses and the doctors were enthusiastic about the prospect of continuous monitoring and perceived it would allow earlier identification of patient deterioration; provide reassurance to patients; and support interdisciplinary communication. There were also reservations about continuous monitoring, including potential decrease in bedside nurse-patient interactions; increase in inappropriate escalations of patient care; and discomfort to patients.

Conclusions: While continuous monitoring devices were seen as a potentially positive tool to support the identification of patient deterioration, drawbacks, such as the potential for reduced patient contact, revealed key areas that will require close surveillance following the implementation of devices. Training and improved interdisciplinary communication were identified as key requisites for successful implementation.

Keywords: evaluation studies as topic; general wards; hospitals; monitoring; patient safety; physiological.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Australia
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Teaching
  • Hospitals, Urban
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Monitoring, Physiologic / instrumentation*
  • Nursing Process
  • Patient Safety*
  • Patients' Rooms
  • Vital Signs*
  • Young Adult