Aim The aim was to determine whether hospital nurses are experiencing physiological strain at work by examining their physiological and behavioural response patterns over 12-hour shifts.
Background Excessive workload for nurses may lead to poor quality of care and high nursing turnover rates. Energy expenditure (EE), heart rate (HR) and work pace (WP) can be used to examine the physiological impact from the workload.
Methods A total of 145 nurses wore monitors for one 12-hour day shift to record HR and WP, which were used to calculate EE. Individual and work-related factors were assessed through questionnaires and work logs.
Results Energy expenditure accumulated over the 12 hours reached the EE level of 8-hour shifts in which individuals work at a moderate physical intensity level. The HR data indicated a moderate cardiac stress level throughout the shifts, despite which WP decreased after 15.00 hours. Inadequate work break and sleep, family care-giving responsibility and aging may challenge work recovery.
Conclusions Nursing workload of 12-hour shifts has a negative physiological impact on hospital nurses.
Implications for nursing management Nurse managers need to be aware of the physiological strain experienced by staff nurses, and focus on ensuring sufficient breaks and proper work accommodations for older nurses.