Work-related fatigue and recovery: the contribution of age, domestic responsibilities and shiftwork.J Adv Nurs. 2006 Nov; 56(4):438-49.JA
This paper reports a study of the relationship between age, domestic responsibilities (being partnered and having dependents), recovery from shiftwork-related fatigue and the evolution of maladaptive health outcomes among full-time working female nurses.
Several studies have suggested that full-time working women with family responsibilities are at greater risk of developing work-related fatigue problems than single women without these responsibilities.
A questionnaire was distributed in 2004 to 2400 nurses at two hospitals in Australia, and 1280 responses were obtained (response rate 54%). The data from a purposive sample of 846 full-time working nurses are reported here.
Domestic responsibilities were not related to differences in fatigue and recovery. Our results suggested that for full-time shiftworking nurses, being part of a family structure, may actually be protective against the development of maladaptive fatigue. The most important factor determining maladaptive fatigue outcome was shift pattern worked, particularly rotation including night duty. The effect of age was equivocal. The youngest age group reported the highest fatigue and poorest recovery compared to the oldest group, who reported the best characteristics. However, this latter group may represent a particularly well-adapted 'survivor cohort'. The relationship between age and fatigue was partly confounded by older, experienced, nurses with greater job responsibilities, working fewer multiple shifts including night duty. In general, increasing age was not associated with poorer recovery or higher maladaptive fatigue.
Unpredictable internal shift rotations, including night duty, which are traditional and typical in nursing, are inimical to maintaining nurses' health. More creative approaches to rostering for nurses working multiple shifts are a necessary step towards reducing wastage from the profession due to chronic work-related fatigue. Younger nurses in particular, may need more support than is currently recognized if they are to be retained within the profession.