Nursing Burnout and the Three-Day, Ten-Hour Work Shift

November 7, 2012

It’s no secret that hospital nurses are overworked and underpaid. Worse, long shifts lead to emotional and physical burnout that places the safety of patients, as well as the nurse’s own career, at serious risk. One study revealed that nurses who work shifts longer than ten hours are at sharply increased risk for burnout. Unfortunately, the implementation of three-day weeks of ten-hour shifts is becoming entrenched. Ostensibly beneficial, the University of Pennsylvania study determined that job dissatisfaction among nurses dramatically rose. The chilling conclusion is that the 10+ hour shift increases adverse patient outcomes by 70 percent.

The traditional eight-hour shift is no longer the norm. And when a long shift is extended by overtime, job dissatisfaction and performance directly correlate with the length of time of the shift. Patients report compromised communication, poorer management of pain control, and overall lack of nurse accessibility.

Details of the study are reflected in the journal Health Affairs.

The study concluded that shift lengths be reduced, with oversight by state boards of nursing. The goal is to build and maintain a better functioning nursing workforce that is more capable of managing their increased responsibilities, including delivering complex care, and ultimately improving health care quality.


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