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Evidence Briefs

Evidence-briefs: short summaries and overviews of research addressing the key questions in Workforce and Health Systems

How long do nurses take to measure patients’ vital signs, and does it matter?

Patients in hospital may be at risk of unexpected deterioration. Monitoring patients’ vital signs, for example blood pressure and heart rate, ensures that any deterioration can be spotted early. This means that monitoring patients’ vital signs is an important part of safe patient care, and, if carried out effectively, has the potential to save many patients’ lives. However, previous studies have been unable to specify the workload this monitoring activity generates for nursing staff. This makes it difficult to plan how many staff are needed to monitor patients. 

Researchers at the University Of Southampton, University of Portsmouth and University of Oxford have teamed up to measure and estimate the time and workload associated with measuring patients’ vital signs, and this evidence brief reports what they found. (Download)

Burnout in Nursing: what have we learnt and what do we still need to know? 

Recent health workforce crises, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, have meant that burnout has often become a ‘buzzword’ to represent stress, extreme tiredness, and a willingness to quit one’s job. Several studies in nursing focus on burnout as an indicator of adverse work environments or staff characteristics. Nonetheless, what burnout is - what aspects contribute to its development and what the effect is for nurses, healthcare organisations, or their patients - is often overlooked. 

This evidence brief describes a review, undertaken by researchers at the University of Southampton, of the research examining relationships between burnout and work-related variables. We sought to determine what is known (and not known) about the causes and consequences of burnout in nursing, and whether these relationships confirm or dispute Maslach’s theory of burnout. (Download)


 Many studies of registered nurse staffing in hospitals have shown an association between higher levels and better patient outcomes and care quality. Systems for determining the number of nursing staff needed on wards exist in abundance. However, research (Download)

Urgent care typically describes healthcare for non-life threatening conditions requiring prompt attention (‘same day’ or within 24 hours). In England, urgent care services have proliferated partly to divert people from attending overcrowded emergency departments but also to address policy concerns of patient choice and improved access to care. (Download)

Job-related stress and burnout are prevalent amongst healthcare staff; in particular, nurses in the UK have one of the highest levels of burnout in any country in Europe. Tackling this problem is a high priority in the UK and in other countries where shortages of healthcare professionals are affecting healthcare delivery.  

‘Magnet’ hospitals are reputed to attract and retain staff, and to achieve better outcomes for patients. But what do we know about whether Magnet hospitals are ‘better’ places for staff to work, and whether they improve staff wellbeing? (Download)

The Francis inquiries in 2010 and 2013 highlighted nurse staffing as a patient safety factor contributing to the care failings identified at Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust. The reports and government response led to the development of national ‘safe staffing’ policy. (Download)