Nurses working 12 hour shifts are more likely to experience burnout, job dissatisfaction, and complaints from patients dissatisfied with their care, according to US researchers.
Their study, published in the journal Health Affairs, is the latest development in the long-running debate on whether 12-hour shifts are better than eight-hour shifts.
The majority of nurses believe 12-hour shifts are worse for patient safety but they are often popular and perceived as better for work-life balance. The profession was equally split on which shift length they preferred to work in a Nursing Times survey earlier this year.
The new study examined the relationship between nurse shift length and patients’ assessment of their care. Nearly 23,000 registered nurses took part in the research by the University of Pennsylvania’s school of nursing over three years.
Researchers found nurses working shifts of 10 hours or longer were up to two and a half times more likely than nurses working shorter shifts to experience burnout and job dissatisfaction.
In hospitals that 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 when they wanted.
Lead author Amy Witkoski Stimpfel said: “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.
“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.”