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Rotating Shift Work Negatively Impacts the Health of Female RN’s New Study Indicates

Keywords: career advice , stress , healthy life , work-life balance , mind , self-help , shift work , female , health
Studies have indicated that shift work correlates to a greater risk of illness. In the healthcare community, shift work is exceedingly common, especially among nurses. The most recent results of a study conducted by an international team of researchers revealed that women who had worked rotating night shifts for 5 years or more were at higher risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality than those who had not worked such shifts or who had worked them for fewer years.

Researchers analyzed data of almost 75,000 women from the Nurses' Health Study - a cohort of 121,700 female nurses aged 30-55 years that began in 1976 to reach their results. Over the course of the study, they found that women who worked rotating night shifts for at least fifteen years had an increased risk of developing lung cancer. The study is the largest in the world to incorporate such a high number of rotating night shift workers and to monitor them over a long period. 

Results indicate that there is clear evidence that sleep and the circadian system play an important role in cardiovascular health and antitumor activity. In 2007 the World Health Organization classified night shift work as a probable carcinogen due to circadian disruption. Rotating shift work is defined as working at least three nights per month in addition to days or evenings in that month. 

Of the women who worked rotating night shifts for more than six years, 11 percent experienced a shortened lifespan. Risk of death by cardiovascular disease jumped by 19 percent for those who worked this way for six to 14 years and by 23 percent for those who did so for 15 years or more.

Eva S. Schernhammer, M.D., DrPH, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and an associate epidemiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital said, in a statement, “To derive practical implications for shift workers and their health, the role of duration and intensity of rotating night shift work and the interplay of shift schedules with individual traits (e.g., chronotype) warrant further exploration.” 

There are many resources for nurses looking to survive shift work. A brochure from Navigate Nursing, found here:

Brochure from Navigate Nursing notes that “The first step to taking control of sleep is to learn to make sleep a priority. Shift working nurses need to teach their bodies how to fall asleep and remain sleeping for long periods of uninterrupted times.”

Nurses without Borders offers advice, including: using caffeine products wisely, and exercising to stay alert.

Find the article here:
Nurses without Borders 

Learn more about the recent study results in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine:

American Journal of Preventative Medicine