Multiple Jobs Add to Nurse Fatigue

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, January 28, 2014

Nurses seeking higher incomes are working multiple jobs, which leads to fatigue and puts patient safety at risk. Should state nursing boards step in?

The author of a study linking nurses' decision regret with fatigue has called 12-hour shifts "one of the worst things we ever did."

I wrote about that study recently and it touched a raw nerve; I received email and comments from lots of readers. They not only agreed that 12-hour shifts are a bad idea, but also pointed out a number of nuances about the matter that working nurses know very well:

  • Hand-hygiene compliance declines throughout a shift;
  • Medication errors are linked with fatigue;
  • Nurses have noticed that patient requests fall through the cracks during 12-hour shifts;
  • 12-hour shifts might contribute to a lack of continuity in patient care; and
  • Nurses "stack" working days so that they work 6 days in a row and can have a week off ("I would not want to be the patient of that nurse doing the 6th shift," one reader wrote).

And more than one reader pointed out the issue of nurses working multiple jobs. This is an interesting problem because it undermines efforts from hospitals and sometimes even states to reduce nurse fatigue.

Alexandra Wilson Pecci

Alexandra Wilson Pecci is an editor for HealthLeaders Media.

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