Having no choice over shift length could be affecting the well-being and retention of nursing staff.
Allowing nurses more control over what shifts they work could help to ease burnout.
A research survey of almost nine-hundred nursing staff has found that long hours combined with poor staffing and little choice in working patterns is likely to be behind nurses burning out and becoming exhausted at work.
Published in the journal Occupational Medicine, the new study undertaken by the University of Southampton emphasises the importance of finding a balance between providing adequate service provision and allowing nurses a say on the shifts they work.
The researchers examined responses from 870 nurses in the UK and looked at the factors affecting their work life.
The team found that working shifts between eight and 12 hours, inadequate staffing levels and having no choice over shift length were associated with an increased risk of burnout.
Inadequate staffing levels, no choice over shift length and rarely, or never taking breaks were also associated with exhaustion.
A better work-life balance.
Working 12-hour shifts in hospitals is quite common and previous research has proven that long shifts can affect staff wellbeing and attrition rates.
New data shows there has been a large increase in nurses leaving the NHS, largely driven by younger workers looking for a better work-life balance.
The researchers concluded that staff who had a complete choice over shift patterns were less likely to experience burnout and exhaustion.
Lead author Dr Chiara Dall’Ora explains: “Complete choice over work hours may have little impact if other factors contributing to burnout and exhaustion persist and complete choice of work hours might be impractical in settings providing 24/7 care.
“Instead, we need to find innovative solutions that balance nurses’ preferences and health services’ staffing needs, while limiting unhealthy working hours.
Dr Dall’Ora concluded, “Given the implications of burnout on nurse well-being, retention and patient safety, finding such solutions is imperative.”