Longer Work Shifts Linked to Nurse Burnout, Stress

Many hospitals have been slowly phasing in the 3-day-workweek for nurses with extended work shifts.  The three-day workweek allows for longer weekends,and is believed to contribute to a better work-life balance.  Unfortunately, the longer shifts also seem to be linked to higher levels of stress.

According to a new study of nurses that was been published recently in the journal Health Affairs, when nurses work long,extended shifts of 13 or more hours, they are at risk for increased levels of nurse burnout and decreased job satisfaction. Nurses who work long hours of 10 or more hours were found to be approximately 2 ½ times more likely to suffer burnout and stress, compared to nurses on shorter shifts. 

Nurses who work longer hours were also more likely to experience job dissatisfaction, and ultimately, announce their intention to leave the job.

The research was the latest in a series of studies that have explored the connection between nurse work hours and patient safety.  It should not come as a surprise to any medical malpractice attorney that a nurse who is stressed, fatigued and suffering from symptoms of burnout is much more likely to compromise patient safety and commit medical errors.  Some of those errors could include medication errors like over dosage, when a nurse fails to read labeling and instructions properly.

Unfortunately, the longer shifts and 3-day work weeks are now increasingly common in American hospitals. Many nurses now work 12-hour shifts, which provide them with greater flexibility and longer weekends.  However, when nurses who work these long shifts are also asked to put in overtime, or asked to work one shift after another, there may be serious consequences for their health, and ultimately, patient safety.