'Nurses need support in switch to single room patient accommodation'

Nursing academic Jill Maben told the RCN International Research Conference in Edinburgh about her findings from a study of single room patient accommodation

Staff nurses need adequate preparation for working in a 100% single room hospital environment, a leading professor of nursing research has said.

King's College London professor of nursing research Jill Maben told the RCN International Research Conference in Edinburgh about the study which looked at the impact on staff of patients having single room accommodation.

The study evaluated the move away from traditional Nightingale-style hospital wards in which a number of patients are cared for in one large room.

Professor Maben and colleagues examined staff and patient experiences before and after the building of a radical new hospital in England - the first of its kind in the country to only use single room patient accommodation.

‘At planning meetings we attended, people talked a lot about what size of waste bin to have – practical things,’ she said.

‘But nobody helped staff nurses think ahead of time “what will it be like [to work in this way] and how can we organise ourselves?”’

The study was published last year and was conducted at the Tunbridge Wells Hospital in Pembury.

It found that nurses had to adapt their working practices significantly and felt unprepared for new ways of working.

Results included:

  • Nurses noted improvements in the new build for patient comfort and confidentiality, staff break rooms and central clinical facilities
  • Single rooms were worse for team work, patient monitoring and keeping patients safe
  • Nursing staff walking distances increased significantly
  • Nurse staffing was increased and there was disruption and reconstitution of work patterns often through trial and error

Professor Maben said staff developed new ways of working, such as regular room checks, falls interventions and regular team update meetings.

Overall, nurses preferred a mix of single rooms and bays, while two thirds of patients preferred 100% single rooms – comfort and control outweighing disadvantages, such as isolation.


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