Nurses working overtime make more errors

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Aug. 2, 2004

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The nursing shortage has decreased patient safety, according to a recent study in Health Affairs. As hospitals cope with the shortage of registered nurses, more nurses are working shifts of more than 12 hours and weeks of more than 40 hours, with the number of patient errors made rising alongside this overtime.

Data collected on 5,317 shifts showed that hospital staff nurses worked longer than scheduled on a daily basis and often worked more than 40 hours per week.

The likelihood of making an error increased with the longer work hours and was three times higher when nurses worked shifts lasting 12.5 hours or more. Working overtime increased the odds of making at least one error, regardless of how long the shift was originally scheduled to be. Working more than 40 hours per week and more than 50 hours per week significantly increased the risk of making an error, as well. More than half the errors and near errors involved medication administration.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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