Long Shifts, Insufficient Sleep Dull Hospital Nurses’ Focus
Research shows that hospital nurses working 12-hour shifts get an average of 5.5 hours of sleep between shifts and that, for some, the lack of sleep results in lapses in attention.
Researchers focused on 80 registered nurses working three successive 12-hour shifts, and gauged their reaction times with a psychomotor vigilance test. Half of nurses had one or no lapses in attention, but ten percent had nine or more lapses. Indeed, 39 percent of nurses had what researchers called moderately frequent lapses, and seven percent had frequent lapses.
“A small percentage of nurses...appear[s] to have impaired ability to maintain vigilance during a neurobehavioral test,” said principal investigator Jeanne Geiger-Brown, Ph.D., R.N., associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Nursing in Baltimore, Maryland. “We were surprised at the short duration of sleep that nurses achieve between 12-hour shifts. Over 50 percent of shifts were longer than 12.5 hours, and with long commutes and family responsibilities, nurses have very little opportunity to rest between shifts.”
Overcrowded Hospital Wards Lead to Depression among Nurses
A new study from Finland links overcrowding on hospital wards to depression among hospital workers.
Researcher Marianna Virtanen, Ph.D., of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, and colleagues looked at occupancy rates at 16 hospitals between 2003 and 2004, as well as personnel data from the corresponding hospital. They found that hospital workers–more than 90 percent of whom were nurses–in wards with an average bed occupancy rate that was 10 percent or more in excess of the recommended limit were twice as likely to take sick leave for depression as their counterparts in wards with an optimal number of patients.
Results of the study were published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, and were posted online on May 4, 2010. A 2008 study led by Virtanen found an association between overcrowding on wards and new treatment for depression among staff.