Sleepy Nurses Could Put Patients at Risk

Sleepy Nurses Could Put Patients at Risk

Nurses get less sleep before their scheduled shifts compared to nonwork days, which could affect patient care, according to a new study.

How much less sleep? Almost an hour and a half.

"Nurses are sleeping, on average, less than recommended amounts prior to work, which may have an impact on their health and performance on the job," said study lead author Amy Witkoski Stimpfel, an assistant professor at New York University College of Nursing, in New York City.

Nursing, especially in hospitals, is dominated by shift work, the study authors noted in a university news release.

For the study, the researchers assessed nurses' sleep habits by analyzing data from two surveys of nearly 1,600 U.S. nurses from 2015 and 2016.

The nurses were also asked about the quality of patient care in their workplace. In addition, the investigators assessed patient safety using data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Hospital Survey on Patient Safety Culture.

On average, nurses reported getting just under 7 hours (414 minutes) of sleep prior to a workday and more than 8 hours (497 minutes) prior to a nonwork day.

Less sleep by nurses was associated with lower measures of patient safety and quality of care, according to the study, which was published Dec. 12 in the journal Sleep Health.

The researchers said their findings suggest several underlying issues.

Nurses who sleep less may be more fatigued while on duty, which may impair their job performance. If facilities have frequent nurse shortages or high turnover that results in unexpected overtime and long hours, patient safety may be compromised by tired, overworked nurses.

Further studies on nurses' sleep are needed, the study authors said. In the meantime, health care officials should use evidence-based scheduling strategies, limit overtime, and provide professional development on the importance of sleep for nurses.

Study co-author Christine Kovner, a professor of geriatric nursing at NYU, said, "It is in everyone's interest to have nurses well-rested so they can perform their critical function within the health care system and keep patients safe."

Source: New York University, news release, Dec. 12, 2019.

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