Shift Work in Nursing
Published: 18 October 2016
Published: 18 October 2016
Nursing is a 24-hour-a-day job. People get sick at all hours of the day and night, and they always need someone there to take care of them. When the doctors go home and the other staff are tucked into their beds, night shift nurses are there when the patient’s condition gets worse in the middle of the night, when they have only their wits and their co-workers to count on.
Nursing is not an easy job, and nursing at night or on rotating shifts makes that job even more difficult.
In 2003, over one million Australian’s worked a night shift in the four weeks prior to the questionnaire, according to Zhao and Turner (2008), and 46 per cent had worked a rotating shift. This means the worker had to work different shifts – day, evening or night – in the same schedule. As most nurses are aware, this is a common occurrence.
Health workers make up 32.3 per cent of shift workers in Australia, and nurses make up the largest group of health workers. Like it or not, nurses must work the off-shifts and deal with the problems that come with it. Some of those shifts even include 12 hour overnight shifts.
One of the problems with night shift work is the subjective state of fatigue (Blachowicz & Letizia 2006). This state can lead to problems with how alert you are, how you concentrate, your vigilance, your ability to make judgment calls, your mood and your performance. You may not even know you are fatigued, yet still experience negative side effects from it. Working night shifts can also lead to social isolation since most events take place during the day when these workers are trying to sleep.
It will come as no surprise to night shift workers that they tend to have bad health habits as well, including eating items that are high in fat and sodium, consuming too much caffeine, smoking, and drinking alcohol. All of these can lead to serious health problems.
Admi et al. (2008) found that working shifts does not lead to an adverse impact on health, absenteeism or performance when compared to those who claimed adaption to shift work or worked only day shifts. However, since working shifts is an essential part of the nursing profession and is not something that will soon go away, you need to devise some strategies to get your sleep and cope with shift work.
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Lynda is a registered nurse with three years experience on a busy surgical floor in a city hospital. She graduated with an Associates degree in Nursing from Mercyhurst College Northeast in 2007 and lives in Erie, Pennsylvania in the United States. In her work, she took care of patients post operatively from open heart surgery, immediately post-operatively from gastric bypass, gastric banding surgery and post abdominal surgery. She also dealt with patient populations that experienced active chest pain, congestive heart failure, end stage renal disease, uncontrolled diabetes and a variety of other chronic, mental and surgical conditions.