Shifting focus: how registered nurses in residential aged care organise their work: a grounded theory study
Registered nurses in residential aged care work with older people who have complex care needs. Besides providing direct care, these nurses have a wide range of responsibilities which include supervising staff and attending to the smooth running of the care facility. This grounded theory study using dimensional analysis was aimed at answering the question: How do registered nurses organise their work? Indepth interviews were conducted with 10 registered nurses who worked in a range of positions in aged care facilities. Theoretical sampling and constant comparative analysis was used to guide both ongoing data collectiona and data analysis. Categories were examined for their relationships and dimensions to arrive at a substantive grounded theory which I have named 'shifting focus'. Individual and institutional philosophies of care were core elements in the registered nurses' focus of work. There was a relationship between staffing adequacy, individual and institutional philosophies of care, and the focus of registered nurse work. These relationships created conditions where the registered nurse would focus on ensuring the delivery of individualised resident care or focus on getting through the routine of care. The relationship between staffing adequacy, philosophies of care and the registered nurses' focus of work remained consistent when staffing adequacy changed. In instances of decreased staffing adequacy, the participants' focus shifted to either maintaining individualised care or focusing on safety. When the registered nurse aimed to change the philosophy of care, an increase in staffing adequacy enabled some aspects of cultural change to commence. The relationships between residents, family and staff were significant contrasting elements within an individualised philosophy of care, and an institutional philosophy of care. In the former, relationships were valued and developed. In the latter, they were benevolent, functional or conflicted. The significance of this study is that it reveals how registered nurses and management personnel in aged care facilities, can create conditions where the relationships between residents, their families and staff, are valued and developed to result in positive care outcomes. It is recommended that future research be conducted to examine the resources required to maintain an individualised approach to the nursing care of residents in aged care facilities.