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Working under pressure: a pilot study of nurse work in a postoperative setting


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Willis, KF, Brown, CR, Sahlin, I, Svensson, B, Arnetz, B and Arnetz, J 2005 , 'Working under pressure: a pilot study of nurse work in a postoperative setting' , Clinical Nurse Specialist, vol. 19, no. 2 , pp. 87-91 .

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Postoperative services provide an excellent setting to study nursing work due to the patients’
needing highly technical, yet highly comforting, care. The current study examined nursing
work in postoperative services in an attempt to discern how nursing work is
structured. Observations of nursing interactions in a 14-bed postoperative unit of a large
Swedish university hospital found that nursing work in this setting is highly intensive and
multidimensional. The need to provide nursing interactions that are caring and respectful of
patients, while at the same time ensuring a high level of technical capacity, was obvious
throughout all stages of patient stays in this unit. Furthermore, although each interaction is
necessarily time-limited there is a caring relationship sustained with each patient. There is a
pattern of caring that emerges that can be encapsulated as a “contingent routine.” Nursing
work cannot be broken down into “dimensions of caring.” The work is high-pressure and
involves, by necessity, multitasking. There are many dimensions of nursing care, but, usually,
these are supplied simultaneously.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Willis, KF and Brown, CR and Sahlin, I and Svensson, B and Arnetz, B and Arnetz, J
Keywords: caring, nursing work, observational study, postoperative care
Journal or Publication Title: Clinical Nurse Specialist
Additional Information:

Copyright 2005 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins Ltd. Definitive version is available online at

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