Long Shifts May Raise Some Nurses' Odds for Obesity

Arduous schedules take toll on their health, patient care, study finds

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Nurses who work long hours and have less physically demanding jobs are much more likely to be obese than other nurses, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of Maryland School of Nursing surveyed about 2,100 female nurses and found that about 55 percent of them were obese. They determined that nursing schedules affect nurses' health and also the quality of patient care.

"Long work hours and shift work adversely affect quantity and quality of sleep, which often interferes with adherence to healthy behavior and increases obesity," said the study's lead researcher, Kihye Han, a postdoctoral fellow at the nursing school, in a university news release.

Han said the findings -- published recently in the Journal of Nursing Administration -- support the need to change the common 12-hour nursing shift. The researchers added that hospitals and other health care facilities should offer educational programs on how to adapt to work schedules, deal with sleep deprivation and reduce fatigue.

"Considering that more than half of nurses are overweight or obese, increasing availability of healthy food and providing sufficient time to consume it may reduce the risk of obesity and future health problems," Han noted.

In a previous study, the researchers found that in terms of nursing schedules, working long shifts and having too little time off were most often related to the death of patients. A separate study also suggested the 12-hour nursing shift can lead to sleep deprivation, health problems and increased risk for errors in patient care.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more information on obesity.

Mary Elizabeth Dallas SOURCE: University of Maryland Baltimore, news release, Jan. 13, 2012

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