Quantifying Workload and Stress in Intensive Care Unit Nurses: Preliminary Evaluation Using Continuous Eye-Tracking

Nima Ahmadi, Farzan Sasangohar, Jing Yang, Denny Yu, Valerie Danesh, Steven Klahn, Faisal Masud

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Objective: (1) To assess mental workloads of intensive care unit (ICU) nurses in 12-hour working shifts (days and nights) using eye movement data; (2) to explore the impact of stress on the ocular metrics of nurses performing patient care in the ICU. Background: Prior studies have employed workload scoring systems or accelerometer data to assess ICU nurses’ workload. This is the first naturalistic attempt to explore nurses’ mental workload using eye movement data. Methods: Tobii Pro Glasses 2 eye-tracking and Empatica E4 devices were used to collect eye movement and physiological data from 15 nurses during 12-hour shifts (252 observation hours). We used mixed-effect models and an ordinal regression model with a random effect to analyze the changes in eye movement metrics during high stress episodes. Results: While the cadence and characteristics of nurse workload can vary between day shift and night shift, no significant difference in eye movement values was detected. However, eye movement metrics showed that the initial handoff period of nursing shifts has a higher mental workload compared with other times. Analysis of ocular metrics showed that stress is positively associated with an increase in number of eye fixations and gaze entropy, but negatively correlated with the duration of saccades and pupil diameter. Conclusion: Eye-tracking technology can be used to assess the temporal variation of stress and associated changes with mental workload in the ICU environment. A real-time system could be developed for monitoring stress and workload for intervention development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)187208221085335
JournalHuman Factors
Early online dateMay 5 2022
StateE-pub ahead of print - May 5 2022


  • eye movements
  • intensive care unit
  • mental workload
  • naturalistic study

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Applied Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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