Nurse Fatigue and Shift Length: A Pilot Study

Deborah Maust Martin, DNP, MBA, RN, NE-BC, FACHE


Nurs Econ. 2015;33(2):81-87. 

In This Article


Nurse fatigue in the United States is recognized as a source of adverse patient events as well as negative impacts on nurse safety. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (2013) cautions people against working more than 8-hour shifts as longer shifts may result in reduced alertness. Shift length was a focus of the Joint Commission (2011) recommendations to mitigate fatigue in health care workers.

In the United States, nurses who provide direct patient care routinely work 12-hour shifts. In a study of about 23,000 nurses, Stimpfel, Sloane, and Aiken (2012) reported 65% worked 12-hour shifts or longer. Nationwide there are 1,617,200 nurses working in hospitals (American Nurses Association, 2011). If 65% worked 12-hour shifts, then there could be well over one million nurses scheduled and working shifts with long hours.