Patients admitted to hospitals where their nurses have to take long shifts are much more likely to die of pneumonia and heart attack, a new study says.
University of Maryland School of Nursing and the Johns Hopkins University researchers studied patient outcomes and staffing information at 71 acute care hospitals in Illinois and North Carolina, along with survey responses from 633 nurses who worked at these centers.
According to the findings published in the Nursing Research, the long 12-hour nursing shifts affect the quality of sleep in nurses, reducing their alertness and vigilance, which are required in the nursing activities.
"Although many nurses like these schedules because of the compressed nature of the work week, the long schedule, as well as shift work in general, leads to sleep deprivation," said study author Alison Trinkoff.
"Alertness and vigilance required for providing good nursing care depend upon having an adequate duration of quality sleep and rest, and long work hours can impact the quality of nursing care and can increase the potential for error," she stated.
"The finding that work schedule can impact patient outcomes is important and should lead to further study and examination of nursing work schedules," the researchers noted.
Warning about the impacts of the current shifting system on the patients' health and safety, the study suggested hospitals and clinics to revise their shifting routines.