BACKGROUND: Time pressure is common in acute healthcare and significantly influences clinical judgement and decision making. Despite nurses' judgements being studied since the 1960s, the empirical picture of how time pressure impacts on nurses' judgement strategies and outcomes remain undeveloped. This paper aims to assess alterations in nurses' judgement strategies and outcomes under time pressure in a simulated acute care setting.
METHODS: In a simulated acute care environment, ninety-seven nurses were exposed to 25 clinical scenarios under time pressured and no time pressured conditions. Scenarios were randomly sampled from a large dataset of patient cases. A reference standard (judgement correctness) was generated from the same patient case records. In 12 of the scenarios only 20 seconds per judgement was allowed, in the other 13 scenarios no time pressure existed. Percentage of correct judgments in both conditions was calculated. Logistic regression modelling (of 2,425 observations) described the relationship between information cues used and judgments made. The degree of attention paid to particular cues was captured by calculating cue relative weights. The clustering effect of nurses was countered by estimating robust standard errors. The Chow test was used to test the null hypothesis that differences in regression coefficients in time pressure and no time pressure models were zero.
RESULTS: Compared to no time pressure, no significant difference was observed in the proportion of correct judgments when nurses were put under time pressure. However, time pressure significantly impacted on the judgment strategies employed. Whilst nurses predominantly used respiration rate to make judgements, they used fewer cues to reach their clinical judgements under time pressure. The relative weighting afforded to heart rate was much smaller in the time pressure regression model, indicating that nurses paid significantly less attention to it when making judgements under time pressure.
CONCLUSIONS: Time pressure had a significant effect on nurses' judgement strategies but not outcomes. Nurses tended to use less information to reach judgements under time pressure, but not at the expense of judgment accuracy. Findings imply that nurses are capable of using adaptive judgement strategies to cope with moderate time pressures when making clinical judgements in acute care.