How Overtime Impacts Workplace Injuries and Illnesses in the Healthcare Industry

Posted on March 16, 2021

Healthcare professionals are subject to long work hours, night shifts, and overtime that contribute to a variety of workplace injuries and illnesses.

Overtime Risks in the Workplace

Healthcare workers commonly work long hours, double shifts, night shifts, and extensive overtime to keep up with patient and hospital demands. Health studies show that working so much puts physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals at much higher risk for workplace injuries and illnesses, as well as medical errors which can cause injuries to patients.

Healthcare professionals often suffer from chronic fatigue and sleep deprivation. To fulfill their duties and make extra money, many healthcare workers deal with work long shifts and overtime with few breaks, creating increased risks for stress and anxiety, physical exhaustion, and mental fatigue. Work injury lawyers see healthcare workers who become ill or suffer physical and mental impairments due to long work hours and overtime. Studies show that healthcare workers who work more than 12.5 hours in one shift are vulnerable to certain problems including:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Memory lapses and mental confusion
  • Impaired communication skills
  • Slower reaction times
  • Lack of compassion and empathy
  • Patient indifference

Chronic fatigue and sleep deprivation are major problems seen by the Illinois healthcare industry and Chicago work injury lawyers. To prevent increased risks of illness and injury, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has established safety guidelines for healthcare workers.

Get Enough Sleep

The CDC encourages at least 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night to avoid fatigue. Healthcare workers are urged to establish a bedtime routine and create a sleeping environment that is comfortable, dark, quiet, and cool. Outside obligations should be kept to a minimum until a person feels completely rested.

Avoid Triggers that Interfere with Sleep

Certain things are known to create sleep problems for most people. Health experts recommend avoiding alcohol, nicotine, and spicy foods for at least 2 to 3 hours prior to bedtime. Caffeine should be avoided at least 5 hours before bedtime, and longer for sensitive individuals. Bright lights and sunlight should be avoided for at least 2 hours prior to sleep because they stimulate the circadian system and promote wakefulness.

Take Short Naps and Rest Breaks

Healthcare workers who work night shifts and overtime are encouraged to take short naps and rest breaks whenever possible to manage fatigue. Short naps (15-30 minutes) and periodic rest breaks (10-15 minutes) are shown to decrease fatigue during work hours.