Let there be light for better nurse health, patient care

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Rana Zadeh, Ph.D.
Rana Zadeh, Ph.D.

Creating workspaces with natural light could improve nurses' job performance and health, Cornell University researchers believe.

Nurses had lower blood pressure, better communication with colleagues and laughed more often if their nursing station let in natural light, investigators determined. 

These nurses also made fewer medication errors, although at a statistically insignificant rate. Still, the findings show that “improving the physiological and psychological wellbeing of healthcare staff, by designing the right workspace, can directly benefit the organization's outcomes,” stated study author Rana Zadeh, Ph.D.

Zadeh and her colleagues compared two hospital wards with similar designs and patient populations; however, only one ward had windows at nursing stations. Nurses with access to natural light also had lower caffeine intake and less self-reported sleepiness. 

These benefits could be of particular relevance to nurses. Many shift workers rely on medications to help regulate their sleep cycles, but there is little evidence that these drugs work, according to a recently published analysis of previous research. 

“There isn't good evidence that these drugs can be considered for more than temporary use and some may have quite serious side effects,” review author Juha Liira, of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health in Helsinki, stated.