On January 11, 2018, the American Academy of Nursing (AAN) released its position statement in recognition that safe nursing practice requires adequate, high-quality sleep to allow them to contribute to patient care safely. The statement was also published in the November/December 2017 issue of Nursing Outlook.
The AAN notes that “the U.S. healthcare system requires critical nursing services around the clock, leading to many nurses working overnight hours and having irregular shifts. The human bodies’ circadian rhythm naturally promotes activity during the day and sleep at night. Long and irregular shift hours, such as a 12-hour work day, disrupts this natural sleep cycle, and has the chance to affect nurses’ health, readiness, their ability to function in the delivery of patient care, and may lead to more medical errors.”
Commenting on the statement, AAN President Karen Cox, PhD, RN, FACHE, FAAN, said, “Many healthcare organizations may not fully understand the health risks for both nurses and their patients from a tired workforce.”
To address this issue, the US government’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has developed the online continuing education program, “NIOSH Training for Nurses on Shift Work and Long Work Hours.”
A recent study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine showed that depression is common among nurses, which may increase the risk for medical errors. The study further showed that more than 50% of nurses who responded to a national survey reported having suboptimal physical and mental health.1
Recognizing the health risks associated with long shifts may help healthcare organizations, including oncology practices, to consider this information when designing their nursing staff schedules.
- Melnyk BM, Orsolini L, Tan A, et al. A National study links nurses’ physical and mental health to medical errors and perceived worksite wellness. J Occup Environ Med. 2018;60:126-131.