Nearly half of newly licensed nurses work overtime, while more than 1 in 10 have a side job, and these long hours and moonlighting factors may jeopardize patient safety and a nurse’s own well-being, according to a new study.

Researchers at New York University’s Rory Meyers College of Nursing reviewed surveys of 4,500 newly licensed nurses in 13 states and Washington, DC, and found that they worked an average of 39.4 hours per week, predominantly in 12-hour shifts. Nearly half said they work overtime and about 13% hold a second job. 

Many experts say changes in health policy in recent years — from the passage of the Affordable Care Act and increased access to healthcare to the recession, which delayed some nurses’ retirements — have had implications for nurses and the hours they work.

Published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing, the study’s findings on overtime were particularly troubling, according to the authors, given that previous research has established associations between working overtime and an increase in medication errors and occupational injuries such as needle sticks among nurses. Overtime also is associated with burnout and job dissatisfaction.