The effect of work hours on adverse events and errors in health care

Danielle M. Olds, Sean P. Clarke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: We studied the relationship between registered nurses' extended work duration with adverse events and errors, including needlestick injuries, work-related injuries, patient falls with injury, nosocomial infections, and medication errors. Method: Using bivariate and multivariate logistic regression, this secondary analysis of 11,516 registered nurses examined nurse characteristics, work hours, and adverse events and errors. Results: All of the adverse event and error variables were significantly related to working more than 40 hours in the average week. Medication errors and needlestick injuries had the strongest and most consistent relationships with the work hour and voluntary overtime variables. Discussion: This study confirms prior findings that increased work hours raise the likelihood of adverse events and errors in healthcare, and further found the same relationship with voluntary overtime. Impact on Industry: Legislation has focused on mandatory overtime; however, this study demonstrated that voluntary overtime could also negatively impact nurse and patient safety.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)153-162
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Safety Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2010


  • Adverse events
  • Errors
  • Overtime
  • Registered nurses
  • Work hours

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality


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