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Many Nurses Burnt Out From Long Work Hours

Many Nurses Burnt Out From Long Work Hours Although many like the thought of a three-day work week, the extended work shifts are causing burnout, job dissatisfaction and unhappy clients among nurses.

In a new study, researchers are finding the extended work shifts, while common and popular among hospital staff nurses, are not all they are touted to be.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing examined the relationship between nurse shift length and patients’ assessment of care.

They determined that nurses working shifts of ten hours or longer were up to two and a half times more likely than nurses working shorter shifts to experience burnout and job dissatisfaction.

Job performance also appears to suffer as seven out of ten patient outcomes were significantly and adversely affected by the longest shifts.

“Traditional eight-hour shifts for hospital nurses are becoming a thing of the past. Bedside nurses increasingly work twelve-hour shifts.

“This schedule gives nurses a three-day work week, potentially providing better work-life balance and flexibility,” said Amy Witkoski Stimpfel, Ph.D., R.N., a post-doctoral fellow.

“When long shifts are combined with overtime, shifts that rotate between day and night duty, and consecutive shifts, nurses are at risk for fatigue and burnout, which may compromise patient care.”

Researchers studied nurses in California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Florida, states that represents approximately 25 percent of the United States population and 20 percent of annual US hospitalizations. Nearly 23,000 registered nurses took part in the study over a three-year period.

Investigators discovered that sixty-five percent of nurses worked shifts of 12-13 hours, and that the percentages of nurses reporting burnout and intention to leave their job increased incrementally as shift length increased.

Study findings are reported in the journal Health Affairs.

In hospitals which had higher proportions of nurses working longer shifts, higher percentages of patients reported that nurses sometimes or never communicated well, pain was sometimes or never well controlled, and they sometimes or never received help as soon as they wanted.

Study authors recommend restricting the number of consecutive hours worked, and that state boards of nursing consider whether restrictions on nurse shift length and voluntary overtime are advisable.

They also believe it would be prudent for nurse management to monitor nurses’ hours worked, including 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,” noted Dr. Witkoski Stimpfel.

“These types of policies that facilitate manageable work hours can contribute to the development of a healthier nursing workforce, prepared to manage the complex care needs of patients and their families.”

Source: University of Pennsylvania

Nurse under stress photo by shutterstock.

Many Nurses Burnt Out From Long Work Hours

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Many Nurses Burnt Out From Long Work Hours. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 7 Nov 2012)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.