Shiftworkers in the American healthcare industry had the highest voluntary job turnover rate of all industries in 2004, according to a study conducted by Circadian Technologies Inc.
Nineteen percent of healthcare workers chose to leave their jobs for similar or different careers last year. Burnout and stress from excessive overtime frequently drove their decisions to leave, says study co-author and senior Circadian consultant Dr. Alex Kerin.
The study, which involved about 130,000 workers in 400 US facilities, showed that workplaces operating outside the hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., had a voluntary turnover rate averaging 10 percent last year. That compared to 3.2 percent voluntary staff turnover for businesses operating only during daytime hours.
But the number of healthcare workers choosing to leave their jobs for greener pastures last year was almost double the average rate for extended hours operations. Transportation and customer service industry jobs did not lag far behind, at 18 and 17 percent respectively last year.
According to Kerin, excessive overtime resulted in a doubling of absenteeism, with unfilled work hours increasing to 12.4 percent in 2004 from 5.8 percent just one year earlier.
Kerin said absenteeism is strongly linked to reduced sleep time, family and social life issues, and poorer overall health among shiftworkers.
“Increased overtime is not sustainable. As demand continues to increase in 2005, employers cannot just rely on existing employees. Overtime will become too much, compromising quality, safety, health and productivity,” he said.
Part of the solution to the high turnover rate in the healthcare industry lies in screening and treating employees for sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea, and providing shiftworkers with strategies for improving their sleep hygiene. For example, unplugging telephones, using fans and other devices to block out intrusive sounds, and keeping rooms as dark as possible all help improve sleep quality among shiftworkers.
Circadian Technologies is a Lexington, MA-based research and consulting company that assists managers of extended hours operations in improving shiftworkers’ performance, health, safety and quality of life.
Handle Your Shift-ing Emotions
You cope with night shift in the emergency room for eight hours, and then you get home to find your partner forgot your birthday. Tears flow. You know you’re overly emotional, but you can’t seem to stop.
Fatigued by working shifts, you might be hypersensitive. A remark that would make you chuckle when rested can result in hurt feelings. Fatigue can also lead to being cranky, moody or forgetful.
Your family needs to know that emotional symptoms are common to shiftworkers. Be patient and help them to remember that a work schedule out of synch with your biological clock is putting you under stress.
However, fatigue is no excuse for lashing-out with hurtful words or actions. Being aware of your emotions is the first step in dealing with situations wisely. Nurture your relationships and talk to your family about your work experiences.