Housestaff workload and procedure frequency in the neonatal intensive care unit

Charles H. Griffith, John F. Wilson, Nirmala S. Desai, Eugene C. Rich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Objective: To investigate the association of clinical workload and the decision to perform procedures on infants in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Design: Prospective cohort study over one academic year, observing infants exposed to housestaff working under various levels of clinical workload. Subjects: All 31 housestaff rotating on the NICU service during the academic year 1993 to 1994 were observed. A total of 785 infants were admitted to these housestaff. Setting: One academic Level III intensive care nursery. Measurements and Main Results: Clinical workload was operationalized as number of NICU infants cared for by the individual houseofficer on-call each night. The procedures of interest were number of umbilical artery catheters (UACs), intubations, lumbar punctures (LPs), and peripheral phlebotomy performed by the houseofficer on-call. Using multiple linear regression approaches, controlling for the average severity-of-illness of each of the NICU infants, the experience and residency program of the houseofficer on-call, and the individual attending, we found that increased clinical workload (number of NICU infants) resulted in a significantly greater probability that an admitted infant received an umbilical artery catheter (p = .02), but resulted in less probability that any NICU infant received a lumbar puncture (p = .0001) or peripheral phlebotomy (p = .0002). The decision to intubate an infant was not affected by the workload in the NICU. Conclusions: The clinical workload of housestaff in the NICU can affect decisions to perform procedures on infants in the NICU. For equivalently severely ill infants, there is a greater chance of receiving a UAC and less chance of being phlebotomized or receiving an LP when workload is high. Attending neonatologists need to be sensitive to possible effects of workload on patient care in the NlCU.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)815-820
Number of pages6
JournalCritical Care Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1999


  • Clinical workload
  • Internship and residency
  • Invasive procedures
  • Medical education
  • Neonatal outcomes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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