Nurses working longer shifts more likely to experience burnout, job dissatisfaction

Published on November 7, 2012 at 6:45 AM · No Comments

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 job dissatisfaction. Furthermore, seven out of ten patient outcomes 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 Health Outcomes 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 registered nurses 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.

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