In the United States (U. S.) there has been a shortage of nurses. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that the shortage will continue well into the 2020s (United States Government, 2018). The reason the U. S. will need more nurses, according to the Bureau is
“for a number of reasons, including an increased emphasis on preventive care; growing rates of chronic conditions, such as diabetes and obesity; and demand for healthcare services from the baby-boom population, as they live longer and more active lives”
Reason for the nursing shortage
According to two articles reviewed for this purchased nursing paper from Ultius, another reason there is a nursing shortage that that once a person becomes a nurse, they are faced with demanding workloads that lead to worker fatigue. Because of the shortage, many nurses find themselves working overtime and they do not have enough time to recover from fatigue once off work before the next shift begins. Mandatory overtime has an effect on new nurses’ intent to leave.
Liu et al. (2015) studied the effects that overtime had on new nurses who had practiced nursing under a year. The nurses they studied also had to keep up their school work. While the authors did not describe it, it seems the nurses the researchers studied were in an intern program much like doctors go through. On top of working long hours, these nurses had to look up articles on the difficult cases they encountered so they would learn more about the problems they might encounter in their practices. The survey these nurses took revealed that work overload and overtime, rather than personality traits, were the reasons they intended to leave nursing.
Overtime having ill effects on nurses
Wheatly (2017) found that in the U. S. barely one fifth of the nursing workforce worked overtime. In this study, Wheatly (2017) examined the reasons for overtime work and many of the reasons were favorable instead of unfavorable. The reasons nurses worked overtime was to make more money, while others did not want to let their co-workers down if they left early. Some stayed late to do paperwork without getting paid any overtime.
Wheatly (2017) also pointed out that working too much overtime can lead to fatigue, musculoskeletal injuries, errors in patient care, and burnout. Wheatly (2017) defined burnout as emotional rather than physical. All these issues and more can lead to nurses intending to leave their positions. The nurses studied here were ones who worked in hospitals. The study does not include nurses who work in doctor’s offices. However, the nurses in this study were not defined as newly graduated nurses either.
Impact of overtime on nurses.
Both articles reveal how nurses deal with overtime, and show that most nurses do not deal well with continual overtime work.
|Author||Purpose||Variables||Study Design||Size||Data Collection||Findings|
|Wheatly 2017||Impact of overtime on nurses||Work hours||Literature review||11||N/A||Overtime has negative outcomes need more regulation on work hours at national level|
|Liu et al. 2015||Impact of overtime on new nurses||Work hours||Survey||162||Self-report||Work conditions had the only effect on new nurses’ intent to leave|
Both articles reveal how nurses deal with overtime, and most nurses do not deal well with continual overtime work. While there are a few perks to working overtime, such as additional pay, there are few other advantages to working overtime. One of the worst side effects of overtime work is fatigue. Liu et al. (2015) and Wheatly (2017) report nurses having physical issues with working overtime as well as burnout.
If a nurse works overtime for too long a period, it can lead to both emotional and physical fatigue. Liu et al. (2015) discusses how nurses must have enough time between shifts to relax and renew their bodies, so they will not end up fatigued. However, it is odd that the literature is so concerned with nurses’ fatigue and burn out when internships for residents causes fatigue as well. It indicates there are two different standards for medical personnel – one for doctors and another for nurses. The difference seems buried in the 1800s gender construction of the male and female roles. Nowadays both sexes can be doctors and nurses, so the rules should not apply.
In sum, there is a nursing shortage and attrition. Thus, nurses work overtime to meet the needs of their patients. Only a few states restrict nurses from working overtime. However, the bulk of attrition for nurses seems to be new nurses who have been working for under a year. They have trouble adjusting to the long work hours. Nurses can have back problems, burnout, fatigue and errors in patient care when they have been working too much overtime. The problem does not seem to have a solution in sight as the nursing shortage will continue to the mid-2020s.
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There are a handful of states that have regulated overtime hours for nurses, but as Wheatly (2017) pointed out, there needs to be a national law regulating how many hours a nurse may work over time in one day and in one week. If nurses’ hours are regulated to prevent fatigue, then many nurses might stay in their jobs because they will be able to recover from their work at the end of each work day.
Liu, Y. et al. (2015). The influence of work-related fatigue, work conditions, and personal characteristics on intent to leave among new nurses. Journal of Nursing Scholarship. Retrieved from https://sigmapubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jnu.12181
Wheatly, C. (2017). Nursing overtime: Should it be regulated? Nursing Economics, 35(4), 213-217. Retrieved from https://www.nursingeconomics.net/necfiles/2017/JA17/213.pdf
United States Government, Department of Labor. (2018). Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm