Training Provides Nurses with Strategies for Shift Work and Long Work Hours

Angie Szumlinski
December 8, 2015

A Hard Day's Night: Training Provides Nurses with Strategies for Shift Work and Long Work Hours

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) today released a free online course that aims to train nurses and their managers on the risks of shift work and long work hours, and strategies to reduce these risks. The training course was developed in collaboration with healthcare stakeholders, including nursing organizations and academic groups and will provide continuing education for registered nurses who complete the course. A certificate of completion is available for persons who are not registered nurses.

The healthcare sector in the U.S. currently employs over 18 million workers with services that take place at all hours. The NIOSH Training for Nurses on Shift Work and Long Work Hours is designed to increase knowledge and promote better personal behaviors and workplace systems to reduce the risks linked to working shift work, long work hours, and exposure to related issues from insufficient sleep. Content is derived from scientific literature on shift work, long work hours, sleep, and circadian rhythms.

“Healthcare is the fastest growing sector in the U.S. economy with nurses working shift-work schedules to provide services around the clock,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. “This course provides strategies for reducing risks on the job for both employers and their workers, and shows how innovative training can fill a need in ensuring workplace safety and health.”

The NIOSH training takes into account sleep patterns and processes involved with sleep and fatigue, and provides solutions for both staff nurses and nurse managers to reduce these risks. Particularly, the training will inform nurses and their managers about the following:

         1. How shift work and long hours are linked to a wide range of health and safety risks by reducing time for sleep, disturbing circadian rhythms and disrupting family and non-work responsibilities

        2. What vital functions occur during sleep and the relevant physiologic processes that determine the timing of sleep and the development of fatigue

        3. Good sleep practices and other coping strategies nurses working shift work and long work hours can adopt in their personal lives to reduce risks

        4. Work organization strategies for employers to reduce risks associated with shift work and long work hours

The NIOSH training is a multi-media course that incorporates lesson text, lesson quizzes, and video testimonials from several nurses. The course is divided into two parts to make it easier for nurses to schedule time and receive contact hours for at least part of the training: Part 1) Health and safety risks to shift work and long work hours and why these occur; Part 2) Strategies to reduce risks from shift work and long work hours. Part 1 takes about 1.5 hours to complete and Part 2 takes about 1.7 hours. It can be taken at any time that is convenient and over a series of 15 or 20 minute time periods if desired.

The NIOSH Training for Nurses on Shift Work and Long Work Hours is available for desktop and mobile devices on the NIOSH website: . A NIOSH Science Blog on the training can be seen at: , comments welcome.

For more information about NIOSH's research and recommendations on healthcare workers, visit .

NIOSH is the federal agency that conducts research and makes recommendations for preventing work-related injuries, illnesses, and deaths. For more information about our work visit .


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