Nursing Night Shifts
Nurses sacrifice a lot for their patients. The care and compassion they share with others can mean the world to a patient, but the long hours and unconventional shifts they often work can take a toll on these hardworking caregivers. Night shifts in particular can be challenging, since they can cause nurses to have trouble maintaining good sleep habits. This can lead to errors on the job and can even cause nurses to develop health problems. It’s not impossible to stay healthy on the job while working 12 hour shifts long into the night, but it does require some adaptation.
The Consequences of the Night Shift
Getting enough sleep is vital for maintaining overall health, and it plays a crucial role in remaining focused and alert at work. Coming to work tired and unfocused isn’t a matter of life and death in most industries, but nurses who work long hours and do not get enough sleep can make fatal mistakes that cost patients. In a 2004 study, it was revealed that nurses were 3 times more likely to make errors when working long shifts (12.5 hours vs. 8.5 hours). Consecutive night shifts have also been shown to increase nursing errors from 17% on the third shift to 36% on the fourth.
Nurses themselves are also put at risk when they must work night shifts and long hours. Sleep disorders, an increased risk of death from lung cancer and cardiovascular disease, obesity, breast cancer and prostate cancer, high blood pressure—all of these and more are more prevalent in nurses who work the night shift or rotating shifts.
How Can Nurses Get Adequate Sleep?
Employers can help reduce errors and employee health problems by allowing naps during long shifts, keeping schedules more consistent (or reducing the number of night shifts), and encouraging employees to get enough sleep.
Though much of the responsibility for scheduling falls to the hospitals themselves, nurses can take steps to help preserve their health. Keeping to a regular sleep pattern as much as possible can be difficult for nurses, but it’s the best way to stay alert and healthy. For nurses who regularly work the night shift, using blackout curtains and earplugs can help with sleeping during the day. Being aware of caffeine intake and using melatonin can also help regulate sleep. Surviving the night shift isn’t easy, but it is possible!
To learn more, check out the infographic below designed by Bradley University’s online Doctor of Nursing Practice program.