To manage nurse shortages and fluctuations in patient censuses, nurses often work overtime. This increase nurses’ work hours and causes them to have fewer breaks. Such extended work schedules, long shift length, long weekly work hours, and insufficient breaks can be considered adverse nurse work schedules. Understanding how these adverse nurse work schedules affect patient outcomes is important to ensure patient safety.
A search of research articles published from 2000 to 2019 found 2,366 articles discussing this topic, 22 were included in one particular study. The findings indicate that working more than 12 hours in a day had an adverse effect on patient outcomes, as was working more than 40 hours per week.
The study found a conclusive relationship between excessive nurse work hours and adverse patient outcomes. During the age of COVID-19, I personally know that nurses were and continue to work longer than “normal” hours, filling in open shifts as “overtime” and obviously are stressed to the limit. It is critically important that we manage adverse nurse schedules to improve patient safety and prevent adverse patient outcomes. How? If I had the answer to that, I would be more popular! It isn’t a quick and easy fix but consider career ladders for CNAs, sharing staff from sister facilities (once vaccinated), etc. Be creative; everyone’s census is low right now and this may be a small blessing to give our staff a needed day off!
Stay well, mask up, and stay tuned!