Nursing Overtime and Patient Safety

3356 Words Dec 1st, 2012 14 Pages
Nursing Overtime and Adverse Effects
Blima Marcus
Hunter College

Abstract
This paper will explore the topic of nursing overtime and its effect on adverse events and errors in the workplace. The prevalence of mandatory and voluntary overtime is high. Nursing shortages combined with the aging baby boomer population means more work for health care workers, and nurses bear the brunt of this reality. There is some legislation in place to restrict mandatory overtime, but research suggests that overtime hours have not decreased since those policies were created. Furthermore, voluntary overtime is unregulated, with many nurses exceeding the recommended 40-hour workweek. Studies have shown that exceeding recommended hours results in workplace
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The economic recession has forced many nurses to pick up extra shifts pay their bills, often to make up for the loss of income from recently laid off family members. The nursing shortage has resulted in fewer hospital workers to care for patients, forcing nurses to put in overtime hours, either voluntary or mandatory. Lastly, the increase in chronic illnesses and the aging baby boomer population means that more patients are being cared for by an overwhelmed health care system.
However, data over the last decade reveals that it is not to the advantage of the nurse or the patient to continue in this fashion. This is an important issue, since patient outcomes and quality improvement are at the crux of every issue in health care. Increased medication errors, falls, inadequate discharge preparation and instructions and consequent early readmissions are all undesirable events in health care facilities and can affect reimbursement as well as hospital ratings. Risks to nurses are prevalent as well, including needlesticks, musculoskeletal injuries, and physical as well as psychological fatigue. Eventually this results in increased nurse burnout, lower retention rates by hospitals, and increasing shortages which perpetuates the overtime cycle.

Search Strategy
Relevant papers for this review were identified from the CINAHL database, using the period 2007 – 2012. Earlier works have also been
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