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Nurses form the core of the healthcare system. The role of the nurse expands far beyond the bedside. The nurse coordinates the client’s care interacting with the multidisciplinary team. It is therefore not surprising that the nurse runs a lot of errands during the entire shift. This role of the nurse means that the nurse will be walking most of the time during the entire shift.

A 2006 study published in MEDSURG Nursing, “How Far Do Nurses Walk?”, found that the 146 nurses studied walked an average of 4–5 miles (6.4 to 8 km) during a 12-hour shift. Even though walking is healthy, the kind of walking nurses do cannot be considered healthy as it is excessive and can lead to fatigue. This may therefore affect the quality of care delivered.

According to Herman Miller Healthcare, there are two major components influencing the total distance nurses walk during their shift:

1.    Physical design – The first component includes the actual distances between destinations such as patient room to medication room, patient room to documentation station(s), and soiled linen to clean supply. Several factors influence these distances including the size of the unit, the mix of single-patient rooms and semiprivate rooms, the amount of decentralization of nursing support spaces, and unit shape and traffic configurations.

2.    Frequency of activities – The second component is the frequency of activities that require the nurse to walk. This frequency determines the total distance traveled on a given shift. Several operational factors affect the total frequency, such as the nurse-to-patient ratio, staffing, the type of patient population, and the shift whether day, evening or night.

While this study was not conducted in Ghana, the situation is the same, especially where most hospitals are understaffed. More often, nurses go beyond their scope of work in delivering care for the patient.

According to John Welton, Ph.D., RN, professor, and senior scientist for health systems research at The University of Colorado College of Nursing, and lead author on the “How Far Do Nurses Walk?” study, it is very essential for nurses to wear good fitting shoes and two pairs of socks. Even though may not be a practical solution for many nurses it may help reduce potential orthopedic problems with frequent walking on hard surfaces.

Also, changing shoes regularly at least every 8 – 12 months helps. Even though the shoes may look neat and ok, the support they offer weakens over time.

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