Can Nursing Schedules Affect Patient Quality Care?

A recent study revealed that long nursing schedules may significantly contribute to poor patient care. Alertness and attentiveness are important traits, nurses need to have. Nurses are able to report to duty and stay alert and attentive for long hours, only if they are able to get good quality rest and sleep. However, not even a well rested nurse can maintain alertness and attentiveness, after long hours of work. Long working hours can make a nurse susceptible to providing poor quality care and at the worst commit deadly errors.

Lack of Sleep and Quality Time Off

It is common for hospitals to use the 12-hour nursing schedules instead of eight-hour shift. This trend started in the 1980s when the shortage of nurses begun to be more clear. Although most nurses were in favour of this shift schedule, the long work hours became the main cause of sleep deprivation, which led to fatigue. Lack of quality time off also was a great contributor to the fatigue of nurses. Studies have already been conducted on the negative effect on patients of the long work schedules of nurses. The excessive working hours of the nurses have been known to increase the mortality rate of patients in hospitals.

Consequences of Nursing Schedules With Long Hours

Nursing schedules have been proven to have significantly affected the quality of the work of nurses. Many nurses who have maintained 12-hour work shifts have been noticed to have these conditions while on-duty:

  • Poor decision-making. A tired body and mind results in poor decision-making. A nurse’s decision is often a life and death decision. Poor decision-making, caused by stress, anxiety and fatigue can affect the quality of patient care and can be life threatening.
  • Lack of concentration. A nurse has to be alert and have full concentration. A tired nurse can be inattentive to a patient’s need. There can be times when a nurse’s lack of concentration, can be fatal to a patient.
  • Apathy or lack of interest. A tired body and mind can cause a nurse to lose interest in what she is doing. She will tend to act like a robot without compassion. Compassion is a nurse’s trait that positively impacts a patient’s recovery.
  • Decreased motivation. An unmotivated nurse caused by inadequately planned nursing schedules can be life threatening to a patient. A nurse is always expected to give the right care to patients. A nurse who is unmotivated will cause her to have all the above listed attitudes toward her work.

Absenteeism is Associated with Long Hours

Other than having a negative attitude toward work, a nurse lacking in rest and sleep can be stressed out. Being stressed can lead to constant absenteeism. An understaffed shift due to absenteeism can prevent the remaining staff from efficiently doing their job. Frequent overtime work can also lead to absenteeism. The creation of good nursing schedules that are humane can enable a nurse to give good quality care to patients.

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