Are You Missing the Connection Between Overtime and Outcomes?

When I presented the webinar “How Overtime May Be Harming Your Business and Patients,” I had the opportunity to show research findings that pointed to a strong connection between nurse overtime and patient outcomes.  Here are some of the key findings:

Nurses working a shift longer than 12.5 consecutive hours are more than twice as likely to make an error1

The risk of a medication error or hospital-acquired infection is more than tripled when nurses work more than 40 hours per week2

A patient fall or pressure ulcer is more than three times more likely when nurses work voluntary overtime3

While there’s strong evidence that health systems that are frequently using overtime to fill staffing voids may have a damaging and pervasive problem, that connection seems to be getting overlooked.

During the webinar, we had the opportunity to poll the primarily finance-focused audience. One of the questions we asked showed that the vast majority of the audience wasn’t really making a connection between overtime and clinical outcomes.

Has overtime been identified as a root cause of medical errors in your hospital/health system?

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The day-to-day challenge of providing high quality patient care with available staffing resources is daunting, and relying on overtime to fill staffing holes can quickly become the default option. However, it’s worth the time and effort to invest in better control of overtime.

Healthcare is changing at an extremely rapid pace, and health systems are being tasked with making the hospital safer, the delivery of care more cost-effective and the patient care experience better. Addressing those issues individually is challenging, and addressing them collectively can be overwhelming. Controlling overtime provides a rare opportunity to attack cost, safety and patient outcomes with one metric.

To learn more about the potential negative effects of overtime, please read the white paper, “Unveiling Overtime’s Total Costs: How OT May Be Harming Your Business and Your Patients.”


1Rogers, Ann, et al. The Working Hours Of Hospital Staff Nurses And Patient Safety. Health Affairs, 23, no.4 (2004):202-212.

2Bae, Sung-Heui. Presence of Nurse Mandatory Overtime Regulations and Nurse And Patient Outcomes. Nursing Economics. March/April 2013; 31, no. 2: 59-89.


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