The Working Hours of Hospital Staff Nurses and Patient Safety

The Working Hours of Hospital Staff Nurses and Patient Safety

The use of extended work shifts and overtime has escalated as hospitals cope with a shortage of registered nurses. In a study of logbooks kept by 393 staff nurses over a four-week period, researchers at the found that nurses are working more hours with fewer breaks and often little time for recovery between shifts. According to the study, (abstract), 199 errors and 213 near-errors were reported during the data-gathering period — more than half of them having to do with medication administration. The study also found that the likelihood of making an error was three times higher when nurses worked shifts of 12.5 hours or more, and that the majority of nurses surveyed reported working longer than scheduled ten or more times in a twenty-eight day period. Aware of the trend, legislatures in nineteen states have considered bans on mandatory overtime for nurses and other healthcare professionals, and bills prohibiting it have been passed in California, Maine, New Jersey, and Oregon.