Nurses' Work Burden Linked to Patient Mortality

Long hours associated with higher risk of myocardial infarction, death from pneumonia

TUESDAY, Feb. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Long work hours among nurses are associated with an increased patient risk of acute myocardial infarction and mortality from pneumonia, according to research published in the January/February issue of Nursing Research.

Alison M. Trinkoff, Sc.D., R.N., of the University of Maryland in Baltimore, and colleagues analyzed data from a 2004 survey of 633 nurses in 71 acute nonfederal hospitals to examine the effect of adverse work schedules on patient mortality.

Controlling for staffing levels and hospital characteristics, the researchers found a significant association between work schedules and mortality. Long hours and lack of time away from work were associated with higher pneumonia-related deaths (odds ratios [ORs], 1.42 and 1.24, respectively), and abdominal aortic aneurysm was significantly related to lack of time away (OR, 1.39). Mortality in patients with congestive heart failure was significantly associated with nurses working while sick (OR, 1.39), and acute myocardial infarction was significantly related to nurses' weekly burden of working hours (OR, 1.33).

"In addition to staffing, nurses' work schedules are associated with patient mortality. This suggests that work schedule has an independent effect on patient outcomes," the authors write.

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