1. Rosenberg, Karen
  2. Kayyali, Andrea MSN, RN


* Exposure to indirect natural light from windows had positive effects on physiologic and behavioral factors in acute care RNs working on the day shift.



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Studies have shown that environmental factors can have significant effects on a worker's mood and performance. Because nursing stations within hospitals are often situated where there's no access to windows or natural light, a team of investigators evaluated whether that specific variable, a windowed nurses' station, had any effects on the nurses working in those areas.


The study was conducted in a Texas community hospital at two separate nursing stations, one with windows and one without. Fluorescent lamps were used on both units. Indirect daylight streamed into the nurses' station on the windowed unit. The units were otherwise similar in environment and patient acuity. Twelve nurses, blinded to the study's variable, participated.


The researchers followed the nurses for two days, measuring their vital signs (blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature, and oxygen saturation); self-assessed alertness levels; and other behavioral factors, such as observed mood or sleepiness, frequency of communication, laughter, and caffeine intake, numerous times throughout their eight-hour shift. The amount of light the nurses were exposed to at the station was also measured at five-minute intervals with a light meter. The researchers also analyzed historical data, from 2009 to 2011, to compare the units' medication error rates.


The results showed that the average overall light levels didn't differ significantly between the windowed and windowless units. However, most of the nurses' physiologic measurements favored the windowed environment: blood pressure was significantly lower, and oxygen saturation was significantly higher, as was body temperature. Heart rates didn't differ significantly.


On the windowed unit, moodiness and tiredness behaviors were seen significantly less often, communication was enhanced, and laughter occurred more often. The nurses' consumption of caffeine didn't differ between the two units, nor did their self-reported feelings of sleepiness. There had also been no difference in the medication-error rates from 2009 to 2011.


The authors suggest that the positive effects noted in the physiologic measurements and communication patterns may support the use of windows and access to daylight at nurses' stations to help optimize the work environment.-AK




Zadeh RS, et al. HERD. 2014;7(4):35-61