Nurses’ views on workload, care rationing and work environments

Clare Harvey, Shona Thompson, Edmond Otis, Eileen Willis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Aims: The article examines nurses’ experiences to institutionally enforced choices they must make regarding what patient care will be left undone. Cognitive dissonance theory is used to discuss how missed care is reconciled with the nurses’ sense of professionalism and feelings of compassion. Background: Research into missed nursing care and care rationing is increasing, with an awareness that it impacts on nurses’ coping ability. Methods: In-depth video and telephone interviews were conducted with four experienced nurses who were asked to describe how they made choices regarding required patient care and how they managed care under workload pressures. Results: Thematic analysis of interview narratives revealed four key themes describing the experiences of nurses managing their work: compromising care; incongruity between professional standards and organisational resources; emotional exhaustion; and depersonalization. Conclusions: Nurses expressed concerns that their professional values regarding patient care are being lost in a quest to achieve financial targets. It raises questions regarding ethical and psychological dilemmas created for workers by work intensification. Implications for Nursing Management: Financial effectiveness negatively impacts on nurses’ emotional and clinical well-being cannot be easily dismissed, given that cognitive dissonance arises from attempting to provide quality care of patients whilst meeting organisational financial targets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)912-918
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Nursing Management
Issue number4
Early online date7 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - May 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • implicit care rationing
  • missed nursing care
  • rationed nursing care
  • work intensification


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