Registered Nurse Strain Detection Using Ambient Data: An Exploratory Study of Underutilized Operational Data Streams in the Hospital Workplace

Appl Clin Inform. 2020 Aug;11(4):598-605. doi: 10.1055/s-0040-1715829. Epub 2020 Sep 16.


Background: Registered nurses (RNs) regularly adapt their work to ever-changing situations but routine adaptation transforms into RN strain when service demand exceeds staff capacity and patients are at risk of missed or delayed care. Dynamic monitoring of RN strain could identify when intervention is needed, but comprehensive views of RN work demands are not readily available. Electronic care delivery tools such as nurse call systems produce ambient data that illuminate workplace activity, but little is known about the ability of these data to predict RN strain.

Objectives: The purpose of this study was to assess the utility of ambient workplace data, defined as time-stamped transaction records and log file data produced by non-electronic health record care delivery tools (e.g., nurse call systems, communication devices), as an information channel for automated sensing of RN strain.

Methods: In this exploratory retrospective study, ambient data for a 1-year time period were exported from electronic nurse call, medication dispensing, time and attendance, and staff communication systems. Feature sets were derived from these data for supervised machine learning models that classified work shifts by unplanned overtime. Models for three timeframes -8, 10, and 12 hours-were created to assess each model's ability to predict unplanned overtime at various points across the work shift.

Results: Classification accuracy ranged from 57 to 64% across three analysis timeframes. Accuracy was lowest at 10 hours and highest at shift end. Features with the highest importance include minutes spent using a communication device and percent of medications delivered via a syringe.

Conclusion: Ambient data streams can serve as information channels that contain signals related to unplanned overtime as a proxy indicator of RN strain as early as 8 hours into a work shift. This study represents an initial step toward enhanced detection of RN strain and proactive prevention of missed or delayed patient care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Hospitals / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Nurses / statistics & numerical data
  • Nurses / supply & distribution*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors
  • Workplace / statistics & numerical data*