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NIOSH Training for Nurses on Shift Work and Long Work Hours


The healthcare sector in the U.S. currently employs over 18 million workers with services that take place at all hours. As the fastest growing sector in the U.S. economy, health care workers face a wide range of hazards on the job, with cases of nonfatal occupational injury and illness among the highest of any industry sector. Nurses work shift-work schedules to provide services around the clock which increase health and safety risks by reducing time for sleep, family, and non-work responsibilities. Long work hours, in addition, increase exposures to hazards at work and reduce recovery times. Employers face risks as well, when mistakes by fatigued nurses negatively affect patients or have broad-reaching effects on the community, ranging from nursing care errors to motor vehicle crashes during a commute to and from work.

The need for readily available training for nurses and their employers, and one that would offer free continuing education units upon completion, spurred the collaboration with healthcare stakeholders, including nursing organizations and academic groups, and the development of a course that provides strategies for reducing risks on the job for both employers and their workers. This course was designed to increase knowledge and promote better personal behaviors and workplace systems to reduce the risks linked to working shift work, long work hours, and exposure to related issues from insufficient sleep. Content is derived from scientific literature on shift work, long work hours, sleep, and circadian rhythms. This course is interactive and incorporates lesson text, lesson quizzes, and video testimonials from several nurses in order to illustrate risk and provide solutions for both nurses and their employers.

We hope that this course will provide both staff nurses and nurse managers with the knowledge and realistic strategies to ensure a safe and healthy workplace, and by extension, safe and healthy communities.

John Howard, M.D.
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health