Publication Date



Aim: To critically review the work sampling technique used in nursing workload research. Background: Work sampling is a technique frequently used by researchers and managers to explore and measure nursing activities. However, work sampling methods used are diverse making comparisons of results between studies difficult. Design: Methodological integrative review. Data Sources: Four electronic databases were systematically searched for peer-reviewed articles published between 2002–2012. Manual scanning of reference lists and Rich Site Summary feeds from contemporary nursing journals were other sources of data. Review Methods: Articles published in the English language between 2002–2012 reporting on research which used work sampling to examine nursing workload. Results: Eighteen articles were reviewed. The review identified that the work sampling technique lacks a standardized approach, which may have an impact on the sharing or comparison of results. Specific areas needing a shared understanding included the training of observers and subjects who self-report, standardization of the techniques used to assess observer inter-rater reliability, sampling methods and reporting of outcomes. Conclusion: Work sampling is a technique that can be used to explore the many facets of nursing work. Standardized reporting measures would enable greater comparison between studies and contribute to knowledge more effectively. Author suggestions for the reporting of results may act as guidelines for researchers considering work sampling as a research method.


School of Nursing, Midwifery & Paramedicine

Document Type

Journal Article

Access Rights

ERA Access

Access may be restricted.