Energy expenditure, body-part discomfort and mental work load among nurses

Mary K Garcia, The University of Texas School of Public Health


The purpose of this prospective observational field study was to present a model for measuring energy expenditure among nurses and to determine if there was a difference between the energy expenditure of nurses providing direct care to adult patients on general medical-surgical units in two major metropolitan hospitals and a recommended energy expenditure of 3.0 kcal/minute over 8 hours. One-third of the predicted cycle ergometer VO2max for the study population was used to calculate the recommended energy expenditure. Two methods were used to measure energy expenditure among participants during an 8 hour day shift. First, the Energy Expenditure Prediction Program (EEPP) developed by the University of Michigan Center for Ergonomics was used to calculate energy expenditure using activity recordings from observation (OEE; n = 39). The second method used ambulatory electrocardiography and the heart rate-oxygen consumption relationship (HREE; n = 20) to measure energy expenditure. It was concluded that energy expenditure among nurses can be estimated using the EEPP. Using classification systems from previous research, work load among the study population was categorized as "moderate" but was significantly less than (p = 0.021) 3.0 kcal/minute over 8 hours or 1/3 of the predicted VO2max. In addition, the relationships between OEE, body-part discomfort (BPCDS) and mental work load (MWI) were evaluated. The relationships between OEE/BPCDS and OEE/MWI were not significant (p = 0.062 and 0.091, respectively). Among the study population, body-part discomfort significantly increased for upper arms, mid-back, lower-back, legs and feet by mid-shift and by the end of the shift, the increase was also significant for neck and thighs. The study also provided documentation of a comprehensive list of nursing activities. Among the most important findings were the facts that the study population spent 23% of the workday in a bent posture, walked an average of 3.14 miles, and spent two-thirds of the shift doing activities other than direct patient care, such as paperwork and communicating with other departments. A discussion is provided regarding the ergonomic implications of these findings.

Subject Area

Nursing|Occupational safety|Public health

Recommended Citation

Garcia, Mary K, "Energy expenditure, body-part discomfort and mental work load among nurses" (1993). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9422044.