Gender and ergonomics: a case study on the 'non-formal' work of women nurses

Silvana Salerno, Lucilla Livigni, Andrea Magrini, Irene Figà Talamanca

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9 Citations (Scopus)


Women's work activities are often characterised by 'non-formal actions' (such as giving support). Gender differences in ergonomics may be due to this peculiarity. We applied the method of organisational congruencies (MOC) to ascertain the 'non-formal' work portion of nurses employed in three hospital units (haematology, emergency room and general medicine) during the three work shifts in a major University Hospital in Rome, Italy. We recorded a total of 802 technical actions performed by nine nurses in 72 h of work. Twenty-six percent of the actions in direct patient's care were communicative actions (mainly giving psychological support) while providing physical care. These 'double actions' are often not considered to be a formal part of the job by hospital management. In our case study, the 'non-formal' work of nurses (psychological support) is mainly represented by double actions while taking physical care of the patients. The dual task paradigm in gender oriented research is discussed in terms of its implications in prevention in occupational health.Practitioner Summary: The main purpose of the study was to assess all the formal and non-formal activities of women in the nursing work setting. Offering psychological support to patients is often not considered to be a formal part of the job. Our case study found that nurses receive no explicit guidelines on this activity and no time is assigned to perform it. In measuring the burden of providing psychological support to patients, we found that this is often done while nurses are performing tasks of physical care for the patients (double actions). The article discusses the significance of non-formal psychological work load of women nurses through double actions from the ergonomic point view. © 2012 Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)140 - 146
Number of pages7
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2012
Externally publishedYes


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation

Cite this

Salerno, S., Livigni, L., Magrini, A., & Talamanca, I. F. (2012). Gender and ergonomics: a case study on the 'non-formal' work of women nurses. Ergonomics, 55(2), 140 - 146.