One study found that nurses who weren’t dissatisfied or burned out were more likely to stay on the job. Marcia Faller is Chief Nursing Officer and Executive Vice President of Operations at AMN Healthcare in San Diego, California.
Reducing overtime and eliminating mandatory overtime can decrease a primary cause of nurse attrition.
Under pressure from chronic staffing shortages, hospital administrators may implement a policy of mandatory overtime.
One study found that more than half of hospital staff nurses work more than 12 hours per day and 17% work mandatory overtime.
Shift work and prolonged work hours resulting in fatigue are strongly linked to poor performance, including reduced focus and attention and potentially harmful errors.
Recognizing the correlation between inadequate staffing and patient harm, the Institute of Medicine has recommended public reporting of hospital staffing and turnover data.
Without exploring the cause of nurses’ dissatisfaction and taking corrective steps, hospitals may continue to suffer high nurse turnover, high recruiting expenses, and inadequate staffing on many shifts.
Maintaining adequate staffing requires aggressive retention efforts, effective recruiting of new staff, and use of float pools and temporary staffing agencies (assuming voluntary overtime won’t completely fill the void left by eliminating mandatory overtime).
Some hospitals go so far as to terminate nurses who refuse overtime work; others report them to the state licensing board for patient abandonment.
Instigating the cycle Chronic overtime can lead to a vicious cycle: Excessive work hours reduce staff morale, which in turn contributes to job burnout.
Overtime isn’t the only issue that can influence the quality of the work environment and patient care.
To improve the work environment and promote better recruitment, retention, and patient care, hospitals should determine the root cause of each factor that affects nursing staff levels. American Nurse Today.com/journal for a complete list of selected references.