Table 2

Unit clerk work definitions




Direct Care

Any activity directly related to patient care. For unit clerks, direct patient care will typically only be entered when s/he talks to the patient's relatives.

Communicating with patient/relative

Ordering results

Communicating with staff member

Note: All communication with patient/relative is defined as direct patient care.

Indirect Care

Any activity indirectly related to patient care.

Reading & reviewing documents directly related to a particular patient

Organizing, ordering, and entering tests, diet, x-rays, blood products, etc. (includes ordering via computer)

Retrieving information (from temporary or perm record, or computer)

Check for results

Washing hands

Gathering & returning equipment

Medication related activities

Documenting in patient notes

Communicating with staff member

Communicating with patient/relative


Any recording of patient information on paper or computer.

Writing on temporary record (e.g. own list)

Registering patients (entering data into computer or onto paper chart)

Ordering tests, etc.

Professional Communication

Any work-related discussion with another staff member.

Requesting medical or nursing consult or review

Handover/parts of a ward round

Receiving any request (e.g. order test, page physician)

Medication related discussion

Communication with patient/relative


Any administrative activity that is not related to direct or indirect individual patient care. Also includes activities that relate to the running of the unit in general (but aren't related to direct or indirect patient care).

Answering visitor's phone

Answering phone calls

Duty rosters

Employment issues

Coordination of staff activities

Staff meetings (not case or clinical meetings)

Unit related

Entering x-ray

Paper work (e.g. organizing lab results to deliver)



Making a phone call to someone that you know is professional

In Transit

Work related movement.

Movement when the participant exits a patient room

Movement between bedsides

Movement within a single room

(e.g. if patient is in isolation room)

Note: When the participant arrives at another task or patient, "In Transit" ceases and the next appropriate category is chosen for that active task.

e.g. participant leaves room to get equipment = in transit

participant returns with equipment = indirect care


Active supervision or teaching of another staff member or student.

Attending education sessions (e.g. grand rounds)

Note: When the participant is actively supervising, "supervision" is selected and all tasks normally undertaken by the participant are added under "multitasking".


Any social or personal activity or discussion.

Personal phone calls, tea & personal breaks

Bathroom breaks

Reading books/magazines


Whenever the participant pages a physician, fellow, or another staff member.

Ballermann et al. BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making 2011 11:32   doi:10.1186/1472-6947-11-32

Open Data