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Determinants and outcomes of skipping mandatory rest breaks in German nurses

(in German)

The nursing profession is subject to high physical and psychological stressors. As a result, these occupational groups (nurses in hospitals and elderly care) are exposed to increased risks of impairing physical and psychological complaints. This stressful situation was likely to become more dramatic in recent years as a result of structural and organizational changes in the nursing sector, increased nursing expenditure and problems with hiring sufficiently skilled staff. In this respect, it is important to strengthen work characteristics that are able to reduce the adverse effects of work stressors and, thus, enable healthy and safe work. Work breaks are such a job resource. In Germany, minimum break times are legally mandatory. However, some studies have shown that breaks in nursing are often skipped, shortened in time or cannot be taken as planned. However, little is known about the drivers and consequences of the absence of mandatory breaks, which motivated us to conduct the following study. The analyses are based on representative survey data of German employees, including nurses (N = 1003) in hospitals (n = 685) and elderly care (n = 318). These cross-sectional data were collected in the sixth wave of the BIBB/BAuA employee survey 2012. We found that skipped breaks were significantly more frequent for nurses working in elderly care and hospitals than in other professions. The main reason for skipping breaks was high workload for both, nurses working in hospitals and in elderly care. Further analyses showed that a lack of information, attributes of high work intensity, shift work, holding a managerial position, low break autonomy and weekend work are associated with increased risks of skipping mandatory breaks. In addition, employees with a permanent job contract miss their breaks more often than those with a fixed-term contract. With regard to psychosomatic complaints our results showed that nurses skipping breaks report more psychosomatic complaints than those without, for musculoskeletal complaints as well. However, we found that breaks can reduce these negative strain outcomes even in case of high work demands.

Practical relevance: In order to safeguard healthcare provision and the health and employability of the nursing staff working there, preventing the skipping of mandatory breaks must be improved upon in the future.

Please download the article "Determinants and outcomes of skipping mandatory rest breaks in German nurses" (in German only).

Bibliographic information

A. Lohmann-Haislah, J. Wendsche, A. Schulz, I. Schöllgen, L. C. Escobar Pinzon:
Einflussfaktoren und Folgen des Ausfalls gesetzlicher Ruhepausen bei Pflegekräften in Deutschland
in: Zeitschrift für Arbeitswissenschaft, Volume 73, Issue 4 2019. pages 418-438, Project number: F 2431, DOI: 10.1007/s41449-019-00173-y

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