A University of Maryland Baltimore Study reports that Nurses sleep an average of 5.5 hours between their 12 hour shifts. The study showed there a correlation between this and errors. I worked night shift for 11 years, most of that time was on 12 hour shifts. I would have to vouch that my average sleep time was 6 hours or less between my shifts. I did not like to work more than 3 12 hours shifts in a row before I believed I felt the effects of being sleep deprived. I have worked with many nurses who would work 4 to 6 12 hour shifts straight to be off more days in a row. As a nurse manager I was always concerned about how many shifts an individual could work and the relation patient safety and the safety of the RN. Regulations focus toward the number of hours worked in a day vs. how many 12 hour shifts might affect patient safety due to lack of sleep. I personally welcome more studies on this matter with the hopes it will give nurses the information they need to create staffing schedules that do not put their patients at risk, as well as, do not put themselves at risk of an accident while driving to and from work. Nursing is a science and standards of practice are based off of research studies that develop into best practice. Continued research on the topic of sleep and nurse scheduling habits would give nursing information it needs to develop best practices in staff scheduling resulting in fewer patient errors.
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