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Nurses working long hours more likely to be stressed, obese

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Stressed nurses are more likely to be inactive, obese, finds study.

In an ongoing investigation, nursing researchers find obese nurses are more stressed and less active when they work long hours, compared to normal or underweight nurses.

A recent study implicated shift work as a risk factor for obesity. In the study, Health Care professionals, and in particular nurses were found to be at high risk for metabolic disorders, leading researchers to suggest shift-work if an occupational health hazard from poor diet. The newest finding focuses on stress and inactivity as contributors to obesity among nurses.

The finding comes from data analyzed among 2,103 female nurses; conducted by University of Maryland, Baltimore and led by Kihye Han, PhD, RN, postdoctoral fellow at the School.

The finding according to Han, means nursing administrators and managers may want to rethink the way the way nurses are scheduled to work.

“Long work hours and shift work adversely affect quantity and quality of sleep, which often interferes with adherence to healthy behavior and increases obesity,” she concludes.

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The study, published in The Journal of Nursing Administration, is part of a series of investigations that show long work hours and shift-work affects the health of nurses that can also lead to poor outcomes for patients.

The research team at the School of Nursing previously made suggestions for managers and health care executives to help nurses who are stressed, overweight and at risk for health problems remain active, get better sleep, have access to healthier foods and manage stress.

The authors write: As shown in the 2004 National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses, more than 40% of nurses who left nursing pointed out the reason for leaving their nursing jobs as scheduling or working too many hours. To restrict unhealthful scheduling and help nurse retention, state regulations related to total work hours or mandatory overtime may play an important role in improving nurse scheduling and retention.”

The study results showed that 57 percent of nurses surveyed were obese. The authors also suggest one way to help with sleep deprivation from shift-work is to allow napping in the work place, which would in turn boost energy so nurses could have a better chance at engaging in healthy lifestyle behaviors. Past suggestions include providing health care employees with incentives for weight-loss and smoking cessation, a model the Cleveland Clinic has adopted.

The Journal of Nursing Administration
"Job Stress and Work Schedules in Relation to Nurse Obesity"
Han, Kihye PhD, RN et al.
doi: 10.1097/NNA.0b013e3182346fff
November, 2011
Volume 41 - Issue 11 - pp 488-495

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I have always thought that 12-hour shifts for nurses is much too long for a job that requires such attention to details and life-and-death decisions.
Yes, with 7pm to 7am being the worst of the worst - except for those that know they're circadian rhythm is set that way.
Knowing a few people who work in hearthcare, my impression was that they seemed to prefer a 4 day, 12-hours per day work week over 8 hours per day 5 days a week. Is this a choice or what most workplaces impose on nurses, i.e. a 12 hour workday schedule?