Long shifts lead to nurse burnout and dissatisfied patients

November 6, 2012, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing

Extended work shifts of twelve hours or longer are common and popular among hospital staff nurses, but a new study reports that nurses working longer shifts were more likely to experience burnout, job dissatisfaction, and patients were more dissatisfied with their care.

In the first study to examine the relationship between nurse shift length and patients' assessment of care, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing report that nurses working shifts of ten hours or longer were up to two and a half times more likely than nurses working shorter shifts to experience burnout and . Furthermore, seven out of ten were significantly and adversely affected by the longest 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," said Amy Witkoski Stimpfel, PhD, RN, a post-doctoral fellow at the Center for and Policy Research at Penn Nursing. "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."

This study took place in California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Florida, which represents approximately 25 percent of the United States population and 20 percent of annual US hospitalizations. Nearly 23,000 took part in the study over a three-year period.

Sixty-five percent of nurses worked shifts of 12-13 hours, the percentages of nurses reporting burnout and intention to leave their job increased incrementally as shift length increased, wrote Dr. Witkoski Stimpfel and Penn Nursing co-authors Linda Aiken, PhD, RN, FAAN and Douglas Sloane, PhD, in the November issue of the prestigious policy journal Health Affairs.

In hospitals which had higher proportions of nurses working longer shifts, higher percentages of patients reported that nurses sometimes or never communicated well, pain was sometimes or never well controlled, and they sometimes or never received help as soon as they wanted.

Dr. Witkoski Stimpfel and co-authors recommend restricting the number of consecutive hours worked, that state boards of nursing consider whether restrictions on nurse shift length and voluntary overtime are advisable, and nurse management should monitor nurses' hours worked, including second jobs.

"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 to refuse to work overtime without retribution," noted Dr. Witkoski Stimpfel. "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."

Explore further: To keep nurses, improve their work environments

Related Stories

To keep nurses, improve their work environments

December 8, 2011
Nurses working in hospitals around the world are reporting they are burned out and dissatisfied with their jobs, reported researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing's Center for Health Outcomes and Policy ...

International research finds quality and safety problems in hospitals throughout 13 countries

March 20, 2012
In one of the largest studies of its kind, a consortium of investigators from 13 countries led the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing in the U.S. and the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium in Europe, found that ...

Fewer patient deaths after surgery in hospitals known for good nursing care

October 22, 2012
Patients treated in magnet hospitals (specially designated for their nursing excellence) had 14 percent lower odds of death than those in non-magnet hospitals in a four-state study of 564 hospitals led by the University of ...

Wondering about your hospital's quality? Ask a nurse

October 11, 2012
(HealthDay)—The easiest way to assess a hospital's quality of care might be to just ask the nurses, new research suggests.

Recommended for you

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.