3 Ways Long Working Hours Impact RNs

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Registered Nurses (RNs) typically work anywhere from 8 to 14 hours per day, which rounds up to over forty hours a week. While you have heard of these numbers, they are still not easy to wrap your head around. The healthcare sector is one of the busiest ones, with numerous patients admitted and staying for treatment. There is no denying the role you play as a nurse is pivotal in helping patients get better, but you need to look after yourself too. 

When you get into the habit of sidelining your health, you may impact your entire well-being immensely. This may mean you end up with poor physical and mental health, decreased sociability, and consequently cannot provide quality treatment. 

Here’s how long working hours undermine your well-being and impact you severely:

1. Disrupts Physical and Mental Health

Your physical and mental health make up the core of your bodily functions. When you are in excellent physical shape with optimum mental health to go with it, you will perform well in all areas of your life. However, as an RN, you may be working so much that you lose sight of the bigger picture and have to face repercussions in this vital area. What is there to do? After you fulfill the required clinical hours, you should build a more fruitful career. This is only possible once you advance beyond being a registered nurse and get a higher qualification. 

While you may have educational opportunities lined up, working long hours will make it hard to go back to school full-time. Therefore you should look into an Online RN to BSN Program to advance your career. Online programs will help you dedicate a balanced amount of time between studying new clinical skills and learning better caring and collaborative techniques without adding stress. 

However, if you keep pushing yourself and your body, you may face the following repercussions:

  • Extreme Fatigue. When working around the clock, you may be giving up on sleep, disrupting your circadian rhythm. Even sleeping an hour less a day can disrupt your internal systems, leading to decreased dopamine levels in your brain. This, in turn, may cause you to feel less joyful, along with experiencing extreme fatigue. Unless you catch up on missed rest, you will experience chronic sleeping disorders and constant fatigue. This will also make you irritable, depressed, anxious, and restless.
  • Weight Management Troubles. Long hours can increase stress levels, which triggers two hormones in your body, namely adrenaline and cortisol. These two work together to increase a sense of panic that suppresses your appetite and ruins your eating habits, leading to starvation and binges. If you let this run unchecked in your system, you can end up with dizzy spells or perpetual migraine. 

On the other hand, cortisol increases your appetite, slows down your metabolism, and makes you crave sweets, greasy food, and carbs. You will start gaining weight when you binge eat, leading to obesity, heart problems, and troubled breathing.

  • Increased Muscle Pain. Standing for prolonged hours with minimum rest is a recipe for trouble. Your muscles need a good balance of rest and movement. When you choose to work and move around more, you reduce your muscles’ blood supply, causing them to cramp painfully. Even when you get a chance to sit after a long day, you will feel immense pain radiating throughout your body, which can be hard to cure.

2. Shatters Social and Personal Life

The effects of long hours trickle into interpersonal relationships too. Apart from having no time to meet friends and family, you will end up carrying your workplace fatigue at home. This not only ruins your social bonds but will lead to feelings of resentment, depression, and frustrations between you and your loved ones. Here are some examples:

  • You Begin To Isolate. Depression, fatigue, and anxiety from work will make you push your family away. You may become cranky and choose to stay alone away from your loved ones. This will negatively impact your friends, family, partner, and even children. You may experience excessive anger, forcing people who love you to walk on eggshells around you. Unfortunately, you may alienate these people for good unless you get help to fix your schedule.
  • Diminished Intimacy. Healthy sex life is an integral part of a romantic relationship. However, overworking can reduce dopamine, leaving you tired and with reduced libido. So even if your partner tries to initiate, you will not have it in you to reciprocate. These may lead to feelings of frustration, anger, and even guilt. Your partner may perceive your lack of intimacy as a lack of interest, which will lead to feelings of loneliness and despair. 
  • Messy Surroundings. You may neglect your house when you are at work for too long. While your partner may pitch in as much they can, house management will become too much to tackle alone. When you cannot shoulder your end of the chores, you will end up with a cluttered space that does not fit you or those that matter to you.

3. Low Quality Of Care

Your patients need your active presence, but when you are stressed, tired, and exhausted to the core, it may result in aggravation, mistakes, and a disregard for patients. Here is how overworking will negatively impact your ability to do your job well:

  • Increased Negative Patient Outcomes. Long hours can make you lose focus. This may lead to you making medical errors such as inserting cannulas incorrectly, poor bedside manner, and improper patient data record keeping. As a result, you may cause patients excessive injuries, deteriorating their health and prolonging their hospital stay.
  • Wrong Dosage Can Lead To Death. Your disheveled state will cause you to make errors. You may prescribe the wrong dosage, which may be way higher or lower than the needed amount. This can seriously harm a patient, and have fatal consequences in worst case scenarios.
  • You May Not Be There. When patients slips into a critical state, they need a nurse to resuscitate them. These can be sudden bleeding, stroke, or convulsions. You have mere seconds to bring the patient back to life, and unfortunately, you may not be able to do that. Long hours with long shifts will keep you from reacting quickly and effectively.

Final Thoughts

Working long hours can get increasingly stressful. Unless you can break this vicious cycle, it will cause more problems than you care to have. Your health will suffer both physically and mentally since your grueling hours may cause you fatigue, weight management issues, and muscle pain. 

Your troubles don’t end there. Your social and personal life will also get hit. You may end up endangering your relationships with your loved ones while failing to look after your house. Continually carrying this stress may cause you to lose focus while looking after patients. You may end up neglecting patients or administering the wrong dosage. All of these can make life harder for you as a nurse.


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