Friday, April 29, 2011

Nurses Long Work Hours, Scheduling Can Increase Patient Mortality

A new study has found that patient deaths from pneumonia and acute myocardial infarction were significantly more likely in hospitals where nurses reported schedules with long work hours. The finding was just one of several revelations from a study of nurses' work schedules, patient outcomes, and staffing led by University of Maryland School of Nursing researchers in collaboration with researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

The study is the latest in ongoing research on nurse scheduling and staffing funded by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. In the current study, Alison Trinkoff, ScD, MPH, RN, FAAN, professor at the School, and co-authors Meg Johantgen, PhD, RN; Carla Storr, PhD, MPH, RN; Yulan Liang, PhD; Ayse Gurses, PhD;and Kihye Han, MD, RN shifted their focus from the effects on nurses in previous studies to patient well-being.

The team linked patient outcome and staffing information from 71 acute-care hospitals in two representative states (Illinois and North Carolina) with the survey responses of 633 randomly selected nurses who worked in these hospitals. Their findings are published in "Nurses' Work Schedule Characteristics, Nurse Staffing, and Patient Mortality," in the January/February issue of the journal Nursing Research. Most U.S. hospitals use 12-hour nursing shifts exclusively, as opposed to eight-hour shifts, a trend begun during nursing shortages nationwide in the 1980s. "Although many nurses like these schedules because of the compressed nature of the workweek, the long schedule?as well as shift work in general?lead to sleep deprivation," says Trinkoff.

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