Single-room usage patterns and allocation decision-making in an Australian public hospital: a sequential exploratory study

Melissa J. Bloomer, Susan F. Lee, David P Lewis, Mary Anne Biro, Cheryle Moss

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Aims and objectives: The aims are to (1) measure occupancy rates of single and shared rooms; (2) compare single room usage patterns and (3) explore the practice, rationale and decision-making processes associated with single rooms; across one Australian public health service. Background: There is a tendency in Australia and internationally to increase the proportion of single patient rooms in hospitals. To date there have been no Australian studies that investigate the use of single rooms in clinical practice. Design: This study used a sequential exploratory design with data collected in 2014. Methods: A descriptive survey was used to measure the use of single rooms across a two-week time frame. Semi-structured interviews were undertaken with occupancy decision-makers to explore the practices, rationale decision-making process associated with single-room allocation. Results: Total bed occupancy did not fall below 99·4% during the period of data collection. Infection control was the primary reason for patients to be allocated to a single room, however, the patterns varied according to ward type and single-room availability. For occupancy decision-makers, decisions about patient allocation was a complex and challenging process, influenced and complicated by numerous factors including occupancy rates, the infection status of the patient/s, funding and patient/family preference. Bed moves were common resulting from frequent re-evaluation of need. Conclusion: Apart from infection control mandates, there was little tangible evidence to guide decision-making about single-room allocation. Further work is necessary to assist nurses in their decision-making. Relevance to clinical practice: There is a trend towards increasing the proportion of single rooms in new hospital builds. Coupled with the competing clinical demands for single room care, this study highlights the complexity of nursing decision-making about patient allocation to single rooms, an issue urgently requiring further attention.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2200-2210
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Clinical Nursing
Issue number15-16
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016


  • clinical judgement
  • decision-making
  • hospital care
  • nursing
  • research
  • ward design

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