Work Organization Factors Associated With Nurses’ Stress, Sleep, and Performance: A Pre-pandemic Analysis

Amy Witkoski Stimpfel, Lloyd Goldsamt, Eva Liang, Deena K. Costa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic put extreme stress on an already strained healthcare workforce. Suboptimal work organization, exacerbated by the pandemic, is associated with poor worker, patient, and organizational outcomes. However, there are limited qualitative studies exploring how the interconnections of work organization factors related to shift work, sleep, and work stress influence registered nurses and their work performance in the United States. Purpose: We sought to understand how nurses perceive work organization factors that impact their performance. Knowledge in this area could direct efforts to implement policies and design tailored interventions to support nurses in the post-pandemic period. Methods: We used a qualitative descriptive design with the Work, Stress, and Health framework as an overarching guide to understand the interconnectedness of work organization factors, work stress, and outcomes. Participants were randomly assigned to one of two anonymous, asynchronous virtual focus groups (i.e., threaded discussion boards) in 2019. Registered nurses (N = 23) working across the United States were recruited and engaged until data saturation was achieved. Directed content analysis was used to analyze the data. Results: Findings aligned with the Work, Stress, and Health framework and revealed three themes: (1) “Our Voice Should Matter” (nurses’ desire to have their voices heard in staffing policies); (2) “Tired But Wired” (the harmful cycle of work stress, rumination, and poor sleep); and (3) “We're Only Human” (nurses’ physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion linked to critical performance impairments). Conclusion: These findings underscore that high work stress and poor sleep were present before the pandemic and impacted nurses’ perceptions of their performance. As leaders look forward to recovery and work redesign efforts, these findings can guide decision-making and resource allocation for optimal nurse, patient, and organization outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4-12
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Nursing Regulation
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 2022


  • Occupational stress
  • burnout
  • nursing
  • patient safety
  • shift work
  • sleep
  • staffing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects
  • Nursing (miscellaneous)


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