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Twelve Hour Nursing Shifts and Adverse Patient Outcomes

by Edward J. Kroger, MD, JD on January 24th, 2011

A newly published study in the January/February issue of Nursing Research suggests that the move from 8-hour to 12-hour nursing shifts, widely adopted by hospitals beginning in the 1980’s, may adversely affect patient outcomes.  The report, Nurses’ Work Schedule Characteristics, Nurse Staffing and Patient Mortality, is based on data from 71 acute care hospitals in two states, and was written by Alison Trinkoff, a professor of nursing at the University of Maryland. She found an association between hospitals where nurses worked longer shifts and an increase in mortality from pneumonia and myocardial infarctions. The study is worth reviewing by any institution in the process of evaluating their nursing shifts. Plaintiff attorneys may try to use the study to suggest that overworked nurses are at a heightened risk of making errors.

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