Shift Work, Long Hours Weigh Down Nurses

New research from the University of Maryland suggests the nurses who work long hours or perform shift work are more likely to be obese.

"Long work hours and shift work adversely affect quantity and quality of sleep, which often interferes with adherence to healthy behavior and increases obesity," said lead researcher Kihye Han, Ph.D., R.N., postdoctoral fellow at the University of Maryland School of Nursing.

Of the 2,103 nurses surveyed, 55 percent were obese. The research also revealed that obese nurses reported working jobs that required less movement and physical exertion.

This study is part of a series of research that highlights how nursing schedules can affect not only nurses' health, but also hospital and patient care outcomes. A previous study in the series found that, along with long work hours, lack of time off was most frequently related to patient mortality. Another study revealed evidence to challenge the common 12-hour nursing shift, which can result in sleep deprivation, health problems and a greater chance for patient-care errors.

This latest study focusing on obesity suggests that hospitals should offer educational interventions about sleep hygiene and strategies for adapting work schedules. According to Han, an organizational climate that supports napping in the workplace can help prevent work-related sleep deprivation, reduce fatigue and increase energy for healthy lifestyle behaviors.

"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 said.

The study was published in the Journal of Nursing Administration.

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