In healthcare today, patient safety continues to be a major concern. Nurse fatigue from long work shifts and inadequate patient handoffs may lead to errors and near errors that harm patients and nurses. The intent of this study was to fill a gap in understanding the effect shift length has on patient safety and maternal newborn nurses’ personal safety. A cross sectional survey design was administered via Qualtrics, a web-based online software program. Participants included two groups of maternal newborn nurses. One group worked 8-hour shifts (N = 70) and the other group worked 12-hour shifts (N = 151). Statistical analyses using t-test and Mann-Whitney U revealed maternal newborn nurses who worked 12-hour shifts reported experiencing more fatigue, making more errors, and sustaining more work-related injuries and accidents than those reported by maternal newborn nurses who worked 8-hour shifts. There was no difference in handoff quality between the two groups. The associations between acute fatigue and the perception of fatigue with nurse work-related injuries and accidents were both statistically significant. Using multiple regression, fatigue and poor quality handoffs were both shown to significantly predict patient errors and near errors, which also may have clinical significance for patients, nurses and employers.

Date of publication

Fall 12-16-2016

Document Type




Persistent identifier


Committee members

Susan Yarbrough, Ph.D., Ellen Fineout-Overholt, Ph.D., Danita Alfred, Ph.D., Linda Scott, Ph.D.


Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing

Included in

Nursing Commons