Patient Safety / Quality

Quantum relationships: Time is not of the essence

A recent time and motion study of 767 nurses concluded that “more than three-quarters of all reported time was devoted to nursing practice…Patient care activities accounted for 19.3% (81 minutes) of nursing practice time, and only 7.2% (31 minutes) of nursing practice time was…used for patient assessment and reading of vital signs.” If the average patient load is four patients and the average shift is 12 hours, the average registered nurse spends 28 (noncontiguous) minutes interacting with any one patient. A nurse who has six patients spends only

18 minutes interacting with any one patient during a 12-hour shift. And let’s not even discuss what happens if nurses have higher patient loads or if an emergency occurs.

Fortunately, quantum relationships aren’t defined solely by time. Physicists tell us everything is energy. Thoughts are energy. Emotions are energy in motion. And time measures the duration of effort (energy) expended. However, recently I was talking with a clinical specialist who said she often rechecks the prescriptions she writes later that day—on her own time. I also know nurses who visit elderly patients on holidays and still others who come to work early to spend time with patients going to surgery, and many more who worry about patients when they are off-shift. That’s not to say time is unimportant. Significant studies indicate that outcomes improve when nurses have more time to spend with patients.

But focus, intention, and attention are critical. Think of it this way: Researchers pose a hypothesis, observe what happens, interpret the data, and note the results. Yet for years we have known that researchers’ unconscious expectations influence, and even create, the results of seemingly objective experiments. We now know that researchers often see what they expect to see and are blind to other outcomes. This usually isn’t an intentional bias. It’s simply how the mind works—even if the person makes a conscious effort to include all possible outcomes, including those never anticipated and seemingly unrelated to the issue under scrutiny. The null hypothesis and the double-blind study were invented to counter this tendency, but practically speaking, they do nothing to change the desired outcome in researchers’ minds.

What does this mean for practice?

In Eastern spirituality, associating with “holy company” is encouraged. However ancient the advice, it reflects a deep wisdom that relates directly to what Western science tells us about quantum entanglement and quantum relationships. Quantum entanglement is a form of superimposition. For instance, when a measurement is made and causes one member of a pair to take on a definite value (clockwise spin), the other member of the entangled pair will, at any subsequent time, take on the appropriately correlated value (counterclockwise spin). We swap and link consciousness with the people we associate with closely in personal and professional relationships, and their influence changes us intellectually, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. What’s more, these changes are etched into us indelibly. All of them contribute to the ever-changing composition of our minds and lives, as we also change them.

Acknowledging and accepting the influence you have on patients and patient outcomes is the first step to using quantum entanglement to improve patient outcomes. Reflecting on how you want to influence them and what kind of nurse you want to be is the second. You may decide that knowledge and skill are all you want to give, but this will have about as much effect as a null hypothesis. You will forever and always be physically and consciously entangled with each patient and each important relationship you form. And so will your patients be entangled with you. So make sure these relationships are good.


Leah Curtin, RN, ScD(h), FAAN

Executive Editor, Professional Outreach

American Nurse Today

Selected references

Hendrich A, Chow MP, Lu Z. A 36-hospital time and motion study: how do medical-surgical nurses spend their time? Perm J. 2008;12(3):25-34.

Westbrook JI, Duffield C, Li L, Creswick NJ. How much time do nurses have for patients? A longitudinal study quantifying hospital nurses’ patterns of task time distribution and interactions with health professionals. BMC Health Serv Res. 2011;11:319.

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