The dimensions of nursing surveillance: A concept analysis

Lesly A. Kelly, Deborah Vincent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Aim. This paper is a report of an analysis of the concept of nursing surveillance. Background. Nursing surveillance, a primary function of acute care nurses, is critical to patient safety and outcomes. Although it has been associated with patient outcomes and organizational context of care, little knowledge has been generated about the conceptual and operational process of surveillance. Data sources. A search using the CINAHL, Medline and PubMed databases was used to compile an international data set of 18 papers and 4 book chapters published from 1985 to 2009. Review methods. Rodger's evolutionary concept analysis techniques were used to analyse surveillance in a systems framework. This method focused the search to nursing surveillance (as opposed to other medical uses of the term) and used a theoretical framework to guide the analysis. Results. The examination of the literature clarifies the multifaceted nature of nursing surveillance in the acute care setting. Surveillance involves purposeful and ongoing acquisition, interpretation and synthesis of patient data for clinical decision-making. Behavioural activities and multiple cognitive processes are used in surveillance in order for the nurse to make decisions for patient safety and health maintenance. A systems approach to the analysis also demonstrates how organizational characteristics and contextual factors influence the process in the acute care environment. Conclusion. This conceptual analysis describes the nature of the surveillance process and clarifies the concept for effective communication and future use in health services research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)652-661
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of advanced nursing
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2011


  • Acute care
  • Concept analysis
  • Nurse
  • Patient safety
  • Surveillance
  • Work environment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Nursing


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