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The Link Between Shift Work and Poor Mental Health in Nurses

Updated: Dec 8, 2023


The Link Between Shift Work and Poor Mental Health in Nurses


Everybody knows the resilience and grit needed to work in the healthcare

profession. Not only do nurses and doctors go through long hours of physical labour,

but they also have to go through situations that exhaust their mental capacities.

Experiences that the general public would probably never go through they handle daily

a daily basis.


While nurses are praised for their work and help millions of people across the globe

recover from their illnesses, it is not commonly recognized how exhausting their work

can be.



Shift work and changing shift patterns


Shift patterns for nurses can vary, they are usually offered 8-hour shifts or 12-hour

shifts. Nurses are not expected to work more than 48 hours a week but can volunteer

to take on more hours. Taking on more hours is becoming the norm within nursing at

the moment as many hospitals struggle to retain staff and keep ratios of nurses to

patients at a safe level.


Studies show that this increased number of hours, as well as multiple unsociable

hour shifts, has a direct link to the number of nurses experiencing burnout.


 


Effect of Long Work Hours





 


Signs of burnout


● Feeling tired or exhausted.

● Feeling helpless or trapped in your situation.

● Feeling detached or as if no one else is experiencing the same feelings as

you.

● Experiencing negative thoughts.

● Self-doubt.

● Procrastinating and taking a long time to get things done.

● Feeling overwhelmed.

● Feeling overly emotional.







Nurses are sometimes seen as inhuman, angels sent from heaven to heal the sick

and it is easy to forget that they need support and rest the same as we do.


It’s important to stop putting pressure on nurses to help them overcome the guilt

feel when taking time out for themselves. Without looking after their mental

health, their guilt, they cannot be fully present for their patients and provide high-quality care.





Reflection:


1. Do you ever take on overtime at work?

2. Have you taken on extra hours even when you felt exhausted out of a sense

of duty?

3. What is the longest shift you’ve worked? Did you get enough rest afterwards

before returning to work?


Sources:


1.https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jonm.12595

2.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31838021/

3.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6862320/

4.https://dailynurse.com/how-12-hour-nursing-shifts-impact-burnout-and-job-

satisfaction/

5.https://www.rcn.org.uk/Get-Help/RCN-advice/working-time-rest-breaks-on-call-and-

night-work


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