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Study: More hours, more errors by nurses

A result of the nursing shortage is the longer hours nurses must work. Extended work hours and overtime aren't practices out of the ordinary for many hospitals. Little data exists on how these longer work periods affect patient safety. Experts set out to study this phenomenon, collecting logbooks from 393 registered nurses. Data were collected on 5,317 work shifts, and researchers examined scheduled shifts and actual shifts of up to 8.5 hours, between 8.5 and 12.5 hours, and 12.5 hours or more.


Fast stats

The study results indicate the following:


[white diamond suit] During the data-gathering stage, nurses reported 199 errors and 213 near-errors.


[white diamond suit] Medication administration accounted for 58% of the errors and 56% of the near-errors, while procedural errors accounted for 18%, charting errors for 12%, and transcription errors for 7%.


[white diamond suit] About 30% of the nurses admitted to making at least one error, and 32% reported at least one near-error.


[white diamond suit] Work duration, number of hours worked per week, and overtime significantly impacted errors. As work hours rose, the likelihood of making an error increased, and that chance was 3 times higher for nurses working more than 12.5 hours.


[white diamond suit] Working more than a 40-hour workweek, or more than 50 hours, significantly increased the potential for error-making.



Source: Rogers, A., et al.: "The Working Hours of Hospital Staff Nurses and Patient Safety," Health Affairs . 23(4):202-212, 2004.