With all the alarming news touting a long nursing shift and a late shift as potential health wreckers, nurses have to wonder if their crazy work hours could be bringing them long-term health consequences.

A study in the International Journal of Nursing Studies recently called attention to the risk for young nurses who work night hours or long hours that include overtime. The study noted that nurses in those shift situations run a much higher risk of on-the-job injuries like a needle stick or a sprain. The news is far from reassuring as the study reports that 44 percent of new nurses regularly work night shift schedules, nearly two thirds of them work overtime, and 79 percent work 12-hour shifts.

The study looked at 1744 registered nurses who had passed their state licensure exams within the past 6 to 18 months. Different factors were associated with more risk of certain injuries. For instance, longer hours like those in 12-hour shifts were associated more with needle sticks while more overtime hours, not necessarily in a 12-hour format, were associated with more of a chance of a sprain or strain

According to the study, more research is needed on the topic as the risk for injury was elevated. “Overtime and night shift work were significantly associated with increased injury risk in newly licensed nurses independent of other work factors and demographic characteristics,” the report states. “The findings warrant further study given the long-term consequences of these injuries, costs associated with treatment, and loss of worker productivity.”

What can new nurses who are bound to be working long and hard hours do? Being aware and proactive to avoid injury are only going to help you avoid these kinds of occupational hazards. Use whatever safety equipment is available to you, especially when moving patients. Take extra precautions around needles, and take advantage of any safety workshops or events your employer sponsors or gives you access to.

Lastly, nurses are more likely to get injured if they aren’t taking care of themselves. Be sure to get enough rest and sleep when you aren’t working and work in some downtime as well. Eat enough good quality foods (including getting enough protein) and drink enough fluids so you aren’t even the slightest bit dehydrated. And, of course, if you sustain any type of injury on the job, report it promptly and get the care and follow up your injury requires.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil is a freelance writer based in Bolton, Massachusetts.
Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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