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Nurse Overtime Harms Professional Collaboration

By Jennifer Thew RN  
   May 11, 2018

After one hour of overtime, nurse to nurse collaboration drops from the 50th percentile to the 30th percentile.

Though common, working overtime may negatively influence nurses’ collaboration with their colleagues, finds a new study by researchers at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing.

“Our research suggests that the more overtime hours nurses work, resulting in extended periods of wakefulness, the greater difficulty they have in collaborating effectively,” Amy Witkoski Stimpfel, PhD, RN, assistant professor at NYU Meyers and the study’s coauthor, says in a news release.

Nurses often work long, irregular hours and unexpected overtime which puts them at risk for fatigue and sleep deprivation and can lead to impaired emotional, social, and cognitive processing. This, in turn, may hurt nurses’ ability to collaborate.

The study, published in the Journal of Nursing Administration, assessed how shift length and overtime impact nurses’ perceptions of collaboration with other care providers, specifically with other nurses and physicians.

Overtime common

The researchers used 2013 survey data from the National Database of Nursing Quality Indicators, and analyzed responses from 24,013 nurses in 957 units from 168 U.S. hospitals.

Among the study’s findings:

  • Across the five types of nursing units measured, the average shift length was 11.88 hours

  • 12-hour shifts appear to be are the predominant shift schedule for hospital nurses

  • Nurses worked, on average, 24 minutes longer than their scheduled shift.

  • 33% of the nurses on a unit reported working longer than initially scheduled

  • 35% percent of nurses said that the amount of overtime needed from nurses on their unit increased over the past year

“One in three nurses reported working longer than scheduled. This appears to be a chronic problem for nurses – one that extends an already long work day and appears to interfere with collaboration,” says the study’s lead author Chenjuan Ma, PhD, assistant professor at NYU Meyers.  

Jennifer Thew, RN, is the senior nursing editor at HealthLeaders.


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