Study shows long nursing shifts lead to dropouts, unhappy patients

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Nurses who work long shifts are more likely to leave the profession, and also have dissatisfied patients, a new study finds.

Nurses working shifts of 10 hours or more were up to two and a half times more likely to experience burnout and job dissatisfaction when compared to nurses working shorter shifts, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing found. The investigators said their examination of 23,000 registered nurses over three years in hospitals across several states is the first study to look at the relationships between nurse shift length and the patients' report of their care.

Amy Witkoski Stimpfel, Ph.D., RN, and her co-authors offered recommendations such as restrictions on nurse shift length and voluntary overtime, and that nurse managers should monitor which nurses are working 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 nurses to refuse to work overtime without retribution,” Witkoski Stimpfel noted in Penn Nursing's Science in Action.

Study results appeared in the November issue of Health Affairs.