An average Filipino nurse working in a private hospital is spending 9.5-10 hours of shift per day, and in government hospital 9.5-11 hours per shift instead of 8 hours. At times nurses have to do double shift (16 hours) in order to compensate for the lack of human resources. This practice has been in practice for more than a decade and is left unchecked from the preying eyes of curious researchers.
One needs not be a scholar or a researcher to discover the ill effects of going beyond the standard 8 hour shift. Nurses who are asked to work for 12 hours or even 16 hours are prone to committing errors during their shift. A nurse in a 12 or 16 hour shift is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode and wreck havoc. In a position paper the American Nurses Association (ANA), National Association of Neonatal Nurses (NANN) and Association of Peri-opertive Registered Nurses (AORN) all reiterate their opposition to forcing nurses to do a 12hour shift because of its negative effect on health and performance.
In a study conducted at University of Maryland, Baltimore it revealed that nurses who are working for more than 8.5 hours are three times more prone to committing errors in patient care. And those who are working in a 12 hour shift develops sleep deprivation and are even in greater risk of committing errors. In a collaborative study between University of Maryland School of Nursing and John Hopkins School of medicine it was established that there is a link between an increase in death rate of patients suffering with pneumonia when their health care provider (Nurses) are working in a 12 hour shift. In a parallel study conducted at Harvard University medical interns who are working consecutively for more than 85 hours per week dramatically increases the risk of committing errors by as much as 36%. With this in view we are putting the safety and welfare of our patients to the hands of health care providers who are overworked and plague with fatigue. This is not only detrimental to the side of the patients but also to the personal health of the nurses as well.
One of the reason why nurses needs to do double shift or extended duty hours is the lack of human resources. Instead of hiring more nurses to maintain a 1:4 ratio for general ward and 1:1 ratio for special areas Hospital administration finds it a solution to extend the hours of shift of nurses in order to save them from paying additional staff nurses. However, they are doing this at the expense of the health and wellness of the nurses working in their institution.
Effects of Sleep Deprivation
Sleep deprivation is a health hazard it contributes to the development of fatigue, sleep exhaustion, insomnia, cardiovascular diseases, lack of energy, cognitive deterioration and abdominal aortic aneurism to name a few. Nurses who are expose to sleep deprivation and lack of rest due to extended hours of duty are prone to developing either one of these diseases. For the nurse this is bad news! This could mean an additional burden on his pocket. Nurses should be given ample time to rest and recover from the fatigue of his previous shift. Nurses should have at least 8.5 hours of sleep to fully recover instead of 5.6 hours of sleep in whose who are doing extended hours of shift.
The lack of action coming from Nurse supervisors and nursing organizations to stop the extended hours of shift and follow the standard 8.5 hours of shift has greatly affected the performance and health of nurses. Some nurses are seen with signs of burn outs and lack of cognitive ability to perform basic procedures. All of these are related to sleep deprivation brought by extended hours of shift.