Rotating night shift work puts nurses in jeopardy

Working in healthcare, it turns out, may be hazardous to your health.

Nurses who work rotating night shifts have an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease (CVD) as well as lung cancer, according to a study of nearly 75,000 female registered nurses set to be published in the March 2015 edition of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Analyzing data gathered by the Nurses' Health Study over 22 years, researchers found that nurses who worked rotating night shifts for more than five years experienced an 11 percent higher risk of all causes of death, according to the study. 

Furthermore, nurses who worked that schedule for 6-14 years were 19 percent more likely to die from CVD-related causes, while those who worked the rotating night shift for 15 or more years led to a 23 percent higher risk of CVD mortality and a 25 percent higher risk of lung cancer mortality.

"These results add to prior evidence of a potentially detrimental relation of rotating night shift work and health and longevity," Eva S. Schernhammer, M.D., associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and associate epidemiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, said in a study announcement.

Night shift work has previousy been associated with health risks, with a World Health Organization study in 2007 identifying such night work as a possible carcinogen, the study notes.

Furthermore, nursing has long been recognized as one of the most taxing professions, with previous research indicating that nurses face health hazards such as long hours, lack of sleep and poor diet as well as stress-inducing conditions such as lack of respect and support from management, FierceHealthcare has reported. And for all their trouble, a recent FierceHealthFinance report indicates that nurses' salaries have largely remained stagnant in the last year.

And these hardships don't just impact nurses: patients suffer too. A 2012 study from the.American Journal of Infection Control found overburdened RNs can lead to more hospital-acquired infections, 

To learn more:
- check out the study
- read the announcement