Although 8-hour shifts are the most common work arrangement around the country in all most occupations, they are a bit less common in nursing. Nurses have work and sleep patterns equivalent to prehospital providers. And critical care nurses probably have the most variable and punishing work patterns.
One may think that just increasing to a 12-hour shift is not that big of a deal. The nursing school at the University of Auckland performed their own survey of ICU nurses in two separate hospitals in New Zealand. They administered the Occupational Fatigue Exhaustion/Recovery Scale and evaluated differences in relation to a number of demographic variables.
Here are the factoids:
- There were a total of 67 participants in the two hospitals and all worked 12-hour shifts.
- Nurses at one hospital (A) worked mostly day or mostly night shifts and tended to be younger. Shifts were more mixed at the other (B).
- About half of the nurses reported low to moderate fatigue acutely, and two thirds re-ported this level between shifts as well.
- Factors that correlated with increased fatigue were younger age, fewer children, less years of experience, and less exercise.
- Higher fatigue levels were reported at hospital A, which had the younger, less experienced nurses.
Bottom line: This is another survey study, but it does illustrate some common issues. Some factors could be changed by rearranging the shift structure to all day or all night shifts. Exercise was associated with less stress and could be encouraged. But the nature and pace of work in the ICU remains constant and is difficult to control for. Some strategies for positive change are listed on the next page of the newsletter.
In my next post, I’ll review the impact of sleep problems on trauma surgeons and residents.
Reference: Exploring the impact of 12-hour shifts on nurse fatigue in intensive care. Applied Nurs Res 50:151191, Dec 2019.