12-hour-plus shifts linked to nurse burnout

Nurses who work shifts of 12 hours or longer are at severe risk for burnout, according to an international study published in BMJ Open.

Researchers, led by Chiara Dall'Ora of the University of Southampton, conducted the study of more than 31,000 nurses from 12 European countries. A little more than 1 in 4 respondents who worked the longer shifts reported high levels of emotional exhaustion, 17 percent had feelings of low personal accomplishment and 1 in 10 reported high depersonalization. These symptoms are the recognized measures of burnout.

Burnout among doctors and nurses is a major obstacle to both employee wellness and care quality, FierceHealthcare previously reported, and nurses throughout the United States increasingly report feeling stressed, overburdened and unsupported by managers and healthcare leaders.

The latest research reveals that 26 percent of the European respondents were dissatisfied with their job in general and 25 percent were dissatisfied with their shift flexibility, with a full 1 in 3 intending to leave their current jobs. Of the countries represented in the survey, 12-hour-plus shifts were most common in Poland, where 99 percent of respondents reported such shifts, followed by 79 percent in Ireland and 36 percent in England. More than a quarter of respondents said their most recent shift included overtime.

"Our results provide the basis for managers and nurses alike to question routine implementation of shifts longer than eight hours, and the use of overtime that is associated with poor nurse outcomes under any shift length, suggesting that overtime may not be a useful strategy to cope with nursing shortages," researchers noted.

To learn more:
- read the study