Our experience has suggested that not only do nurses on hospital wards waste time making too many unnecessary clinical observations, but that it is very difficult to persuade them to modify the pattern of their practice. We therefore conducted a survey by questionnaire among trained nurses in one health district of their everyday ward practice and attitudes to clinical observations. This showed that whilst a majority of nurses questioned believe in the importance of routine observations for patient care, there is a lack of consistency in the criteria and communication procedures used that must seriously limit the value of the information obtained by the individual nurse. We believe that uncritical faith in routine observations is a barrier to rationalizing procedures to optimize efficient use of the professional skills of ward nurses in this regard. There is need for more thought to be given to the problem and in particular it is important that doctors play a more active role in decision making.
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