The Effects of Longer Work Shifts and Productivity among Registered Nurses in Busy Hospitals

Nursing is a demanding profession that requires physical, mental and emotional stamina. Nurses are often exposed to high levels of stress, workload and fatigue, which can affect their health, well-being and performance. One of the factors that can influence these outcomes is the length of the work shift. In many countries, nurses work 12-hour shifts or longer, which may have advantages and disadvantages for both nurses and patients. This paper aims to examine the effects of longer work shifts and productivity among registered nurses in busy hospitals, and to provide recommendations for improving the quality of care and the working conditions of nurses.

Literature Review

According to a systematic review by Dall’Ora et al. (2020), longer work shifts (more than eight hours) are associated with increased risks of adverse events, such as medication errors, patient falls, hospital-acquired infections and mortality, as well as lower patient satisfaction and quality of care. Longer work shifts also have negative impacts on nurses’ health and well-being, such as increased burnout, fatigue, sleep deprivation, musculoskeletal disorders and psychological distress. Moreover, longer work shifts can reduce nurses’ productivity and performance, as they may experience decreased alertness, attention, memory, decision-making and communication skills (Dall’Ora et al., 2020).

However, some studies have suggested that longer work shifts may have some benefits for nurses and patients, such as increased continuity of care, reduced handovers, improved teamwork, enhanced autonomy and flexibility, and lower turnover and absenteeism (Ball et al., 2017; Griffiths et al., 2019). Furthermore, some nurses may prefer longer work shifts because they can have more days off, more time for personal and family life, and more opportunities for education and professional development (Ball et al., 2017; Griffiths et al., 2019).

Therefore, the effects of longer work shifts on nurses and patients may depend on various factors, such as the workload, staffing levels, skill mix, shift patterns, organizational culture, support systems and individual preferences of nurses (Ball et al., 2017; Griffiths et al., 2019).

Discussion

Based on the literature review, it can be concluded that longer work shifts have more negative than positive effects on nurses and patients in busy hospitals. Therefore, it is recommended that hospitals should limit the length of work shifts to no more than eight hours for registered nurses, and implement strategies to optimize the workload, staffing levels, skill mix and shift patterns. Additionally, hospitals should provide adequate support for nurses’ health and well-being, such as breaks, rest areas, counseling services and wellness programs. Furthermore, hospitals should involve nurses in the decision-making process regarding their work schedules, and respect their preferences and needs.

Conclusion

In conclusion, this paper has examined the effects of longer work shifts and productivity among registered nurses in busy hospitals. The main findings are that longer work shifts are associated with increased risks of adverse events for patients, lower quality of care and patient satisfaction, and negative impacts on nurses’ health, well-being and performance. However, longer work shifts may also have some benefits for nurses and patients, such as increased continuity of care, improved teamwork and enhanced autonomy. Therefore, the effects of longer work shifts may depend on various factors related to the work environment and the individual characteristics of nurses. It is recommended that hospitals should limit the length of work shifts to no more than eight hours for registered nurses, and implement strategies to improve the working conditions and support systems for nurses.

References

Ball J.E., Murrells T., Rafferty A.M., Morrow E. & Griffiths P. (2017) ‘Care left undone’ during nursing shifts: associations with workload
and perceived quality of care. BMJ Quality & Safety 22(2), 116-125.

Dall’Ora C., Ball J., Recio-Saucedo A. & Griffiths P. (2020) Characteristics of shift work
and their impact on employee performance
and wellbeing: A literature review.
International Journal of Nursing Studies 103,
103-114.

Griffiths P., Dall’Ora C., Simon M., Ball J.,
Lindqvist R., Rafferty A.M., Schoonhoven L.,
Tishelman C. & Aiken L.H. (2019) Nurses’
shift length and overtime working in 12
European countries: The association with
perceived quality of care and patient safety.
Medical Care 51(11), 975-981.

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