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Study finds that nurses' strenuous hours increase risks

It's well-known that nurses face a lot of risks on the job. They show up in a variety of different ways: lifting heavy patients, working in a fast-paced environment, working around potentially hazardous substances and working with dangerous medical equipment, just to name a few.

However, some studies have now determined that the very hours that nurses work may contribute to the odds of a serious injury. Those at the greatest risk are those who work night shifts and overtime shifts.

"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 claimed after the data had been examined.

Another doctor added that they needed to study the information a bit more now that the risk is clear, "given the long-term consequences of these injuries, costs associated with treatment, and loss of worker productivity."

The need doesn't stop

The healthiest thing would be for nurses to have more traditional schedules, like those enjoyed by office workers. If they could come in at 9 a.m. and stay until 5 p.m., rarely working overtime and always sleeping well at home during the night, they may not get hurt nearly as often on the job.

Naturally, though, this is impossible. The need doesn't stop. People get in car accidents at 2 a.m. They have heart attacks in the middle of the night. The go into labor and have children regardless of the time of day. They get injured at other jobs where they're forced to work overnight.

Medical professionals must be ready at any hour. That often means staying late when a shift is over or coming on for a night shift so that the hospital remains staffed around the clock. Those doors never close.

Schedule changes?

That said, the information gathered showed that some scheduling changes may help. Are there ways for hospitals to keep nurses safe?

For instance, did you know that a staggering 79 percent of nurses who have recently entered into the profession reported getting 12-hour shifts? When asked if they worked overtime, the majority (61 percent) claimed that they did. When asked about night shifts, 44 percent claimed they had to work them regularly.

Night shifts cannot be avoided for all workers all the time, but it does seem that hospitals could do away with 12-hour shifts and give nurses more 8-hour shifts to help prevent injuries. They could also look into staffing options to reduce the need for overtime hours.

Social Security

As noted above, many injuries are serious and may make it impossible for nurses to work, at least for a time. They need to know all of the legal rights they may have to Social Security Disability payments.

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