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Long shifts lead nurses to take more sick time, study shows

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Southampton, England — Nurses who regularly work 12-hour shifts or longer have more illness-related absences than those who work shorter shifts, according a study led by researchers at the University of Southampton.

The researchers analyzed data from more than 600,000 shifts worked by 1,944 nurses from April 2012 to March 2015 at an acute care hospital in England.

They found that more than 38,000 shifts were missed because of sickness, and “staff scheduled to work a shift of 12 hours or more were 24 percent more likely to miss the shift due to sickness absence, compared to staff who were scheduled to work shifts of eight hours or less,” Chiara Dall’Ora, lead author and a nursing workforce research fellow at the university, said in a July 12 press release.

“In the current context and in light of previous findings from our work and that of others, our research suggests that, while occasional 12-hour shift work may not have adverse consequences, working higher proportions may lead to higher sickness absence,” Dall’Ora said. “Therefore, nurse managers should question routine implementation of long shift patterns, especially if this is based on assumed cost savings.”

The study was published online July 5 in the Journal of Nursing Management.

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