New nurses face higher injury risk on night, overtime shifts

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Newly licensed registered nurses who work overtime and night shifts are more likely to suffer occupational injuries, according to a study published in the International Journal of Nursing Studies.

Researchers with the RN Work Project examined data from 1,744 nurses working in hospitals who had passed their state licensure exam between six and 18 months earlier. The data showed that 79% of new nurses regularly worked 12-hour shifts. Forty-four percent and 61%, respectively, worked nights or overtime on a weekly basis.

The two most common injuries associated with working overtime and night shifts were needle sticks and sprain or strain injuries, researchers found. The risk of needle sticks increased by 32% for nurses who worked overtime. For new nurses who regularly worked night shifts, the risk of sprains and strains increased 16%.

The study also found that needle stick injuries were most common in nurses under the age of 30 who had a higher-than-average workload, or a lower-than-average autonomy.

The study's authors note that their research did not take into account whether the nurses received safety training, or whether safety equipment such as patient lift devices were available and used. The authors also suggest the study's findings warrant further research into the long-term consequences and treatment costs of injuries sustained by new nurses.