Obesity in Nursing
Twelve-hour shifts have gotten some bad press. They've been linked to medical errors, nurse burnout and, now, higher rates of obesity in nurses.
Researchers from the University of Maryland School of Nursing, Baltimore, surveyed 2,103 female nurses and revealed nurses with long work hours were significantly more likely to be obese compared with underweight or normal-weight nurses (55 percent of those surveyed were obese). The nurses who were obese also reported having jobs requiring less physical exertion and less movement.
"Long work hours and shift work adversely affect quantity and quality of sleep, which often interferes with adherence to healthy behavior and increases obesity," noted Kihye Han, PhD, RN, postdoctoral fellow at the school and lead researcher in the study.
That's a good point. I work an average of 8 hours a day and I still feel like I can't find time for exercise. And it's not uncommon that, after a day at work, I may opt for the drive-through because I'm tired and don't feel like making dinner (which no doubt would be healthier).
Han suggests a change to the 12-hour nursing shift. "Considering that more than half of nurses are overweight or obese, increasing availability of healthy food and providing sufficient time to consume it may reduce the risk of obesity and future health problems," Han noted.
Given how the 12-hour shift has become the default working pattern for so many nurses, maybe it's time to reevaluate its impact on nursing practice and the health of nurses themselves. Mandatory overtime in some organizations only compounds the situation. Is the convenience of a 3-day work week enough of a reason to continue the practice? The research seems to be telling us otherwise.