NIOSH Training for Nurses on Shift Work and Long Work Hours
How to Support Your Staff
These additional suggestions might be helpful to support your staff.
- When overtime is unavoidable, consider providing services that reduce non-work demands on nurses so they can devote their time off to rest and sleep. Services that might be helpful include laundering of work clothes, child care, and transportation home. Ask your staff what other services might be helpful.
- Provide access to nutritious food at the worksite during evening and night shifts.
- Avoid pressuring nurses to work extra shifts. Fatigued nurses have made tragic patient care errors and have died in auto crashes. A growing literature is linking staff safety with patient safety. Research provides evidence that longer shifts and shift work are associated with increased errors, adversely affecting patients.
- Encourage staff to routinely get health examinations since shift work and long work hours are associated with a somewhat higher risk for some illnesses (see Module 3, Risks). Encourage nurses with symptoms to see their healthcare provider promptly.
- Be aware that nurses with sleep disorders, some chronic illnesses, and certain medications may be at higher risk for work-time sleepiness and fatigue issues.30 Encourage staff with excessive sleepiness or trouble with sleep to see their health care provider or a sleep disorders specialist for an assessment and treatment. See Modules 4 and 6 for more information.
- Promote education of your staff about sleep and strategies to reduce risks associated with shift work and long work hours. Include this information in orientation for new employees.