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Nursing News: Long Nurse Shifts Equals Lower Patient Satisfaction Scores

Written by LeAnn Thieman, CSP, June 27th, 2013

Post-doctoral fellow Amy Witkoski Stimpfel, PhD, RN, researched nurse burnout via another quality indicator.

Though the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing scholar suspected a connection, Witkoski Stimpfel’s study of 22,000 nurses in California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Florida revealed lower patient satisfaction when nurses worked shifts of 13 hours or more.

Patient satisfaction decreased 1% with every 10% increase in the nurse’s shift length.

“The trend in scheduling is 12 to 13-hour shifts but, where there were higher proportions of shorter shifts, patients were more satisfied,” noted Witkoski Stimpfel.

Hospital administrators have shown a great deal of interest in her findings, but find themselves at a quandary, she said.

“They know nurses want to work 12-hour shifts and most facilities accommodate that,” she said. “I do get the sense hospitals are concerned about the safety aspect but everybody’s fearful of changing the shift length because nurses might leave. It’s a fine balance.”

Witkoski Stimpfel said reducing overtime might be an effective compromise or at least a starting point. Furthermore, the literature supports 4 to 6-hour shifts as it offers flexibility for nurses with family responsibilities.

“With a short shift, nurses can deal with admission and discharges while still going to lunch and taking a break,” she said. “Even combining 8- and 12-hour shifts is a good idea because the nurse isn’t consistently working 12 hours”

Not only are patients less satisfied, but many nurses logging long hours at the hospital are reporting intent to leave their employer within the year. Witkoski Stimpfel said nurses working 10 hours or more are 55% more likely to report wanting to seek new opportunities.

Cimiotti said there is a solution. “A lot of research shows that, even if staffing isn’t optimal, nurses don’t become burned out if there’s a healthy work environment,” she said.

To learn how to create a healthy work environment for your nurses, strategies for nurse recruitment, nurse retention, bringing self care to your facility and how to increase work life balance for nurses and healthcare professionals, go to SelfCare for HealthCare. CONTACT ME DIRECTLY to talk about customizing this powerful program for your employees.

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