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Nurses more likely to experience emotional exhaustion if working 12-hour shifts or longer, study finds

Nurses are more likely to experience high emotional exhaustion and job dissatisfaction if they work shifts of 12 hours or longer compared with nurses working shifts of eight hours or less, a major European study has found 

Nurses are more likely to experience high emotional exhaustion and job dissatisfaction if they work shifts of 12 hours or longer, compared with nurses working shifts of eight hours or less, a major European study has found. 

The study, carried out by the National Institute for Health Research Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (Wessex), involved surveying 33,659 registered nurses from 12 European countries including England. 

It found 4,314 nurses (14%) working shifts of 12 to 13 hours, while only 260 nurses worked more than 13 hour shifts. 

Researchers found that when working 12 hours or more, the odds of reporting high emotional exhaustion were increased by 26% in comparison with those working for eight hours or less. 

The odds of nurses reporting dissatisfaction with their job were 40% higher for nurses working 12 hours or more, compared to those working eight hours or less. 

Nurses working the longer shifts were also more likely to experience high depersonalisation and low personal accomplishment, and to report being dissatisfied with work schedule flexibility, the study found. 

University of Southampton professor of health services research Peter Griffiths, who is one of the authors of the report, said: ‘This study adds to a growing body of evidence showing that the organisation of shift work in many hospitals may be putting both patients and staff at risk. 

‘Longer shifts aren’t necessarily bad in themselves but we need to be mindful of increased risks, and make sure the effects are closely monitored and pay close attention to other aspects of shift work, such as ensuring proper breaks within and between shifts. 

‘The low levels of job satisfaction are a surprise as many nurses still seem to prefer this shift pattern.’

The survey was done as part of the RN4CAST study. Data was collected in Belgium, England, Finland, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Switzerland and Sweden. 

The full report will be published on BMJ Open. 

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