Study of management decision making by ward sisters in a hospital and the effects on decision making after the implementation of a decision support system.
This thesis considers management decision making at the ward level in hospitals especially by ward sisters, and the effectiveness of the intervention of a decision support system. Nursing practice theories were related to organisation and management theories in order to conceptualise a decision making framework for nurse manpower planning and deployment at the ward level. Decision and systems theories were explored to understand the concepts of decision making and the realities of power in an organisation. In essence, the hypothesis was concerned with changes in patterns of decision making that could occur with the intervention of a decision support system and that the degree of change would be governed by a set of 'difficulty' factors within wards in a hospital. During the course of the study, a classification of ward management decision making was created, together with the development and validation of measuring instruments to test the research hypothesis. The decision support system used was rigorously evaluated to test whether benefits did accrue from its implementation. Quantitative results from sample wards together with qualitative information collected, were used to test this hypothesis and the outcomes postulated were supported by these findings. The main conclusion from this research is that a more rational approach to management decision making is feasible, using information from a decision support system. However, wards and ward sisters that need the most assistance, where the `difficulty' factors in the organisation are highest, benefit the least from this type of system. Organisational reviews are needed on these identified wards, involving managers and doctors, to reduce the levels of un-coordinated activities and disruption.