Nurses Suffering From Burnout Due To Long Shifts

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

New research from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing found that long work shifts can cause nurses to feel burned out and dissatisfied with their job, while leaving their patients dissatisfied with their care.

The researchers stated that prolonged working hours were becoming more and more common in hospitals. The study is touted as the first to look at the connection between the length of a nurse´s shift and the reaction to the quality of care from patients. In particular, the team of investigators discovered that nurses who took on working shifts that were ten hours or longer had a two and half times higher risk of experiencing burnout and job dissatisfaction as compared to the nurses who worked shorter shifts. As well, seven out of ten patients reported having negative responses to the care provided by nurses who worked longer shifts.

“Traditional eight-hour shifts for hospital nurses are becoming a thing of the past. Bedside nurses increasingly work twelve-hour shifts. This schedule gives nurses a three-day work week, potentially providing better work-life balance and flexibility,” explained Amy Witkoski Stimpfel, a post-doctoral fellow at the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research at Penn Nursing, in a prepared statement. “When long shifts are combined with overtime, shifts that rotate between day and night duty, and consecutive shifts, nurses are at risk for fatigue and burnout, which may compromise patient care.”

The study included participants from a number of states, including California, Florida, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The combination of these states amounted to an estimated 25 percent of the United States population and 20 percent of U.S. hospitalizations that occur every year. As well, almost 23,000 registered nurses were included in the three-year project. Of these nurses, 65 percent of the nurses worked shifts that were between 12 to 13 hours and reported having an increasing risk of experiencing burnout and the desire to leave the job.

The findings of the study, recently published in the policy journal Health Affairs, showed that a number of issues can arise in hospitals that have a high percentage of nurses working overly long shifts. For one, a higher proportion of patients noted that nurses rarely or never communicated with them. The patients also stated that pain was rarely or never controlled well, leaving them the impression that they never received the help and care that they needed.

Based on the results of the study, the team of investigators advised that management should monitor the number of hours worked by nurses. They also recommended that the state boards of nursing look into the effect of voluntary overtime and nurse shift length.

“Nursing leadership should also encourage a workplace culture that respects nurses´ days off and vacation time, promotes nurse´s prompt departure at the end of a scheduled shift, and allows nurses to refuse to work overtime without retribution,” concluded Witkoski Stimpfel in the statement. “These types of policies that facilitate manageable work hours can contribute to the development of a healthier nursing workforce, prepared to manage the complex care needs of patients and their families.”

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