Assigning nurses' desired shifts improves their work ability and health, large study finds

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Nurses' job performance and health are better when they can work the shifts that they want, suggests recently published findings from a large European study.

Investigators in Germany and Belgium examined data from more than 11,000 nurses in eight European countries, who participated in the European Nurses Early Exit Study (NEXT). The participants worked in a variety of settings, including long-term care.

Over a 12-month period, nurses who wanted to change their shifts but could not reported the lowest initial and follow-up scores on a work ability index, the researchers found. These nurses also had the worst general health, and their health deteriorated the most over the study period.

Those nurses whose schedules were changed as requested perceived their work ability to improve, according to the study authors. These nurses also had fewer health issues than the other group, although this effect was not dramatic.

“The findings imply that shift schedule organization may constitute a valuable preventive tool to promote nurses' work ability and – to lesser extent – their perceived health, not least in aging nursing work forces,” the researchers concluded.

Findings appeared in BMC Public Health.

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