Nurses stressed, less active and overweight

Nurses stressed, less active and overweight

By Liz Lockhart

The School of Nursing has carried out new research which reveals some interesting facts about nurses which, it would appear, can also be associated with all professions which involve shift work, long hours and less physical exertion and movement.

Data which was obtained by surveying 2,103 female nurses revealed that nurses with long work hours are more likely to be obese rather than normal weight or underweight.  The obese nurses reported having jobs which require less physical exertion and movement.

Little was known scientifically previous to this study about the prevalence of obesity in nurses and the potential link between their work and their weight, suggests Kihye Han, PhD, lead researcher of the study.

Hans further suggests that the study results give us timely evidence-based information for administrators and nurse executives who may now rethink their nurse scheduling.

Han says ‘Long work hours and shift work adversely affect quantity and quality of sleep, which often interferes with adherence to healthy behaviour and increases obesity.’

Published in the Journal of Nursing Administration (issue 11) the study is the most recent in a series from the School of Nursing.  This series of studies shows the adverse effects that unfavourable nursing schedules can have.  The knock-on effect of this not only reflects on the nurses’ health but also on patient care outcomes. 

A previous study by this research team found that, as well as the long work hours, the work schedule component in terms of lack of time off, was most frequently related to patient mortality.  In another study it was found that there is evidence to challenge the frequently used 12-hour nursing shift pattern.  This can result in sleep deprivation, health problems and a greater chance for errors in patient care. 

This current obesity study suggests that educational action needs to be taken which would involve information about sleep hygiene and strategies for adjusting work schedules.  This needs to be offered to both hospitals and other health care institutions.

Approximately 55% of the nurses surveyed were obese.  Han says ‘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 concluded that a favourable organisational climate which supports napping in the workplace can help to prevent work related sleep deprivation whilst reducing fatigue and increasing energy for healthy lifestyle.


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