At Arcascope, we’re focused on helping shift workers get more sleep and feel better with circadian-specific interventions. In particular, we’ve spoken to a lot of shift workers in the healthcare industry about their experiences working nights.
A lot of the lessons we’ve learned are echoed in this recent survey we ran with 218 nurses who work night shifts (both rotating and fixed nights). Here’s a tour of what we found:
Increased risk of error
A full 65.1% of nurses we surveyed either agreed with or strongly agreed with the statement “Being tired on night shift makes me more likely to make a mistake.” More than a quarter said they strongly agreed with the sentiment, compared to less than 5% who said they strongly disagreed.
Heightened turnover risk
Nearly half of the nurses—49.5%— said they’ve thought about leaving their current job for reasons specifically related to working night shift.
When we asked them what made them want to quit, the number one cited reason was sleep loss.
Negative effects on health and wellbeing
More than half of the nurses in the survey, 53.7%, said they agreed with the statement “Working the night shift has negatively impacted my health and wellbeing,” with only 5% strongly disagreeing.
This lines up with a past survey we conducted, where we asked nurses who work the night shift what symptoms they found most disruptive. The table below summarizes what we heard then: in general, feeling exhausted and not being able to fall asleep and stay asleep are major pain points for these workers.
38.5% of nurses working the night shift surveyed said they agreed with the statement “I’ve missed work because of health problems due to shift work (e.g. sleep loss, fatigue, etc.).” That said, 50% said they disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement.
On the one hand, society needs critical workers like night shift nurses in order to function. On the other, given the risks of fatigue and error that come with lost sleep, it may be that there are people showing up to work who are putting themselves at risk by getting behind the wheel to drive in.
Interestingly, our population for this survey skewed a bit older, with 45-60 being the largest age group represented.
This is interesting in part because the pain points we found here agree with the literature: You don’t tend to see shift workers being better at handling the night as they get older. Studies have found that night shift workers who are older tend to follow less adaptive sleep strategies, possibly because they have a harder time sleeping in.
If you’re a nurse struggling with shift work, or a health system looking for a solution to get your people sleeping more, we want our app Shift to lend you a hand. Reach out to get on our pilot waitlist.